Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Most Boringest Section in History

Nothing happens. I know I say that a lot but in these two chapters, I really, really mean it. I've never been so dangerously close to a boredom-induced coma and if any of my readers suffer from narcolepsy, I suggest you stay away from this snark.

So Mark, aka one of the minor characters you've all but forgotten existed because no one has any distinguishing features in this series, arrives at the airport to meet with Carl. He gets questioned by this guy with the name tag Kolak and watches a broadcast from Nicky Alps who says he's going to let the SuperPope (aka the EBOWF pope) make his ruling on the RTCs and whether they'll be allowed to travel. Meanwhile, I suffer a concussion from banging my head against the desk in boredom.

At the school, apparently baby Tolan might be sick. I don't see the worry as he's described as having a runny nose and a cough and anyone will tell you, babies shrug off illness pretty quickly. But they ask that Z guy to get some baby aspirin for them. They also manage to get the safe open and it's full of gold coins. I have no idea why they would be so excited since gold is only valuable as long as there's an infrastructure that says it's valuable; isn't Nicky Appalachian going to issue a new mark of the beast currency system soon? I doubt their coinage would be much good then. Either way, I smack my head again in boredom. At this rate, I'm going to be punch-drunk by the time this snark's over.

Judd decides he wants to leave Mali and go back to Israel to be with Lionel and Samuel. Mr. Stein agrees with him and offers to have Immen take him to the airport. That's seriously all that happens in this section. :smack:

Y'know as I recalled from a previous snark, a UFO had struck the world. Is it so much to ask that we finally find out what the hell this object is and what's going to happen? Then again, nothing's going to happen because nothing ever happens in these books. :smack:

Lionel hears about the coins from Vicki and is excited she's wiring them some money to get home. Again, that's all that happens.

Mark is in a hotel room and apparently some inky blackness is covering the earth, making it seem as dark as night. It really would be nice to focus on this, but we all know that would interfere with Ellanjay's hard-on for travel logistics and phone calls. And now that I've left you with that horrible mental image--Ellanjay with a hard-on--I'm going to smack my head again in hopes of inducing unconsciousness. Maybe when I wake up, stuff will actually happen. :smack:

Apparently Jamal is still bitter towards them. This is interesting but again nothing really happens. Lionel just tells Nada about the money, Nada offers to retrieve it, and Jamal's like "Like hell you will!"

Next section, short paragraph about travel logistics with Judd. Apparently the black cloud, aka something happening that would probably be a lot more interesting to read about than all this crap about travel logistics, has stranded flights. Judd won't be able to get back to Israel until Monday. :cue dramatic prairie dog:

Lionel and Samuel go to the bank to get the money. But afterwards, there's some creepy guys waiting outside to jump them so they have to go out the back.

Next chapter, Lionel and Samuel escape without harm, thus preventing anything interesting from happening in this section. Woo-hoo...

Judd's still stuck at the airport until Sunday evening or Monday morning. Mark sits and watches a little TV at the airport while waiting for Carl. I ask: Does Ellanjay seriously believe that kids love reading stories in which the hero's stuck in the airport and doesn't do anything except sit there and wait?

Judd is :gasp: forced to eat an overpriced meal at the airport while awaiting his flight and the SuperPope makes his announcement. Basically the SuperPope says it's illegal to practice a religion that goes against their mission so the RTCs are now evil and also you will be subject to fine and imprisonment if you visit Token Jew's website. They also mention that they have tracking in place to monitor the activity of every citizen. This makes me smile as a I picture Nicky's employees sorting through a bunch of porn URLs. Because the the Internet is for Porn.

Samuel and Lionel arrive at the airport, but are stranded due to the cloud. I cry from boredom. But something mildly interesting happens when they hear an angel sound a trumpet calling for yet another judgment.

Anyway the section ends with Judd and Vicki's group also hearing the trumpet. I will end my snark here because I can't take any more boredom.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Warning! Really Long Post

Sorry, sorry, for the late post. I was visiting family and was unable to post. Also, sorry for the unimaginative post title; it's getting harder and harder to come up with witty post titles. Anyway, you know the rules: links may not be worksafe.

Well I'll be: Judd and Mr. Stein do actually leave the airport. Apparently Immen drives them out to the desert where some nomads live. Apparently somehow, these nomads are so isolated that only a few words of their language is known and they've for the most part just kept to their ways, a lifestyle that was in no way affected by centuries of colonialism or by the myriad disasters that hit the earth back to back. I did a cursory glance at Wikipedia and apparently there are nomadic herders in Mali, but I call bull on them being utterly isolated from the modern world. Also, note that Ellanjay the ghostwriter doesn't bother to give a name to the group, just calls them the nomads. I think they're cheating and trying to avoid doing research on nomadic tribes of Mali. I thought they'd mention the Tuareg because it would give them an excuse to bring up someone regarded as a martyr for the faith, Charles de Foucauld, but then again, that would shatter their Noble Savage motif they got going plus Charles was Catholic and you know Ellanjay believe that Catholics can only be raptured if they stop following the teachings of the Mother Church and stop being so inscrutable and Catholic.

I can't help but wonder since Immen only knows a few words of their language and Judd and Mr. Stein don't know a single word, how are they supposed to preach to the heathens so to speak. Probably do the old trick where they talk slowly and loudly because doing that instantly makes you more easy to understand and isn't at all an assholish thing to do.

At the school, Vicki is being all pissy at Janie (who is rapidly becoming my current favorite character) for running off, even though Janie swears up and down that she wouldn't rat them out to the GC. Vicki is all "You have no idea what the GC can do to you!" but Janie goes "I do but I don't expect you to care about it!" and storms off.

Vicki then talks to Lenore who tells her that the man they found frozen to death was her husband, Tim, and that he'd died because they'd eaten all the food and burned just about everything else in order to keep warm during the Freeze,so he went out to get food and firewood so she and baby Tolan wouldn't freeze. Vicki expresses sorrow but never makes the connection that Lenore's husband would be alive if Zod hadn't decided to go for the Exterminate and/or Convert the Brutes! approach. Not to mention, I have a sneaking suspicion that she's not really feeling any sympathy for this woman but is only acting like she does because she knows it's expected of her. Then again, my feelings towards the main characters are abysmal so I can't be trusted.

If you're wondering how Judd and Mr. Stein and Immen are going to convert the heathens, never fear! That handy Babelfish spell comes back and since all other religions are basically going "La-la-la can't hear you!" and that saying "Jesus died for your sins!" immediately opens all eyes to the truth, the nomads convert in droves. They then ask Judd and Mr. Stein and Immen to witness to the tribe's enemies. If you're wondering the only descriptors given to these nomads are that they wear loose clothing, cloth around their faces, carry spears, and sleep in animal skin tents. It must have taken Ellanjay all of five minutes to craft that description. Thank goodness they weren't too burdened with Research to get this sucker to market.

I've been doing a lot of one chapter snarks lately but this one's a little skimpy, so here's a second one.

Vicki and the other Stockholm Sufferers Good Christian Boys and Girls are having yet another meeting at the schoolhouse about all the heathens they keep attracting. I start grinding my teeth as they discuss the dangers hosting non-converts brings until Darrion, who I'd nearly forgotten existed, brings up a verse from the book of James reminding them to care for the widows and orphans, which makes the first paltry mention of any kind of social gospel we get in these books. Frankly I'm wondering what would happen if they read the rest of the Book of James. Because James was all about the social gospel. I foresee heads exploding.  Either way, Janie, Charlie, Melinda, Lenore, and Tolan are allowed to stay and Vicki actually goes upstairs to apologize for yelling at Janie, while I wonder if the effect of the Flavor-Aid has worn off, albeit briefly, because this is the first time Vicki's shown empathy for Janie's feelings.

Janie tells her story about being tortured by the GC and reiterates that she won't rat them out because she knows what the GC can do, Mark, aka yet another character I've forgotten about because no one has any discerning personality traits in this series aside from being either a main character or a minor one, makes plans to go see Carl, and on the news, the GC make mention of yet another massive object about to hit earth. Naturally, they predict that it'll break up in before it hits earth, but Vicki goes digging for Token Jew's message, even though you'd think she'd know what all was going to happen next.

Judd and Mr. Stein convert members of the tribe and that's all that happens.

Meanwhile, we finally hear from Lionel again. He's been hanging with Nada and teaching Samuel. He also has sense enough to keep Samuel from going to see his father. Nada expresses a desire to go back to the states with them but Lionel tells her she can serve Zod by staying in Israel. Judd calls to ask for help getting back to Israel and that's all that happens on Lionel's end.

Our last stop in this snark is once again, the schoolhouse. Mark leaves to go after Carl and Vicki tries to convert Lenore but they're interrupted by a quake. Turns out this Unidentified Foreign Object (henceforth referred to as UFO until told otherwise) hit the earth causing a massive mushroom cloud to rise into the air and triggering massive volcanic activity. I would worry but given how many disasters have hit, back to back, and how little effect they've had (only one of the main characters, Ryan aka the Buttmonkey have died and only a few NPCs have died), I'm not worried. In fact, I'm jaded, which is the opposite of what I should be when reading this kind of novel. Once again, I bring up the Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It too, played fast and loose with science and had a whole mess of shit get dumped on their heroes, but the thing is, it eased off the narrative gas and allowed the readers to feel the suffering the characters were going through. In fact, she was unrelenting in showing just how awful all this was and made sure you knew that the characters were suffering. But since Ellanjay see all this suffering as simply the heathens receiving their just deserts at the hands of an angry God, they can't focus on the suffering because that would detract from their busy schedule of Nelson laughing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hospitality is meaningless

Bit disappointed that no one laid into me for that whole Kurt Vonnegut thing in my last post, but then again, maybe I was wrong to assume that his fans are rabid and quite possibly insane. Anyway, same rule about links still applies.

The beginning of this chapter is really, really boring on both the American Front and the Guys Front.

In America, they're looking for Janie because if she rats them out to the GC, they're screwed. There is a brief poignant moment when they come across the body of someone who died looking for wood during the freeze, but in true Ellanjay fashion, it isn't dwelled on much.

Now with Judd and Mr. Stein...Well I'm happy to say, Ellanjay didn't wuss out. They actually went to Mali. Unfortunately all they do in their section is walk around the airport, so jury's still out on whether they'll actually show us anything of Mali or if they'll just wuss out and spend all their time at the airport. But regardless, it won't mean anything given that they managed to make visiting Israel and seeing some of the most holy sites in Christendom, seem about as memorable as looking at the side of a bus.

Anyway, they find Janie, who has a woman with her named Lenore. Basically they chew Janie out and she's all "I needed a smoke like you wouldn't believe," and introduces Lenore. Janie also says that life at the school isn't so bad aside from all the God stuff, which is a clear sign that Stockholm Syndome she's on the road to someday becoming a good RTC.

Lenore has a baby, Tolan, and naturally her arrival plus Janie's insistence that she won't go back to the school without her, sparks debate among the RTCs. They do eventually decide to take Lenore and her baby in, but still yet another lesson repeatedly learned as a result of these books: hospitality means looking out for your own. You owe no one else anything.

There is an interesting little conversation at the end of this section. Apparently Janie has the gall to refer to herself as a "Child of God," which makes Conrad say, " you're not," and start going through the "Christ died for you" spiel. It's kind of confusing: I thought it was standard Christian doctrine that everybody was created by God; therefore we all bear a touch of the divine and can be considered Children of God, regardless of our Saved/Unsaved status. But then again, I'm one of those shiftless hippies who believes that she isn't in any position to make statements about who is or isn't going to heaven, so what do I know?

Janie, who I'm liking more and more, calls Conrad on his bullshit, saying essentially, "So you don't think I'm a child of God? Well what about Lenore or her baby?"

But Conrad has this to say:

"What you believe is that we're all part of God and that God rewards and punishes people simply by what they do."

"Yeah, so?"

"God's not like that. He wants to be our friend, but we sinned, and that separates us from God."

Okay, I'm seriously scratching my head right now. I don't wanna launch into the whole Theodicy debate because there's no satisfactory answer to it, but isn't "God rewards and punishes people by what they do" a standard part of Christian doctrine? In fact, don't Ellanjay's heroes frequently get rewarded for their virtuous behavior and snigger at the poor souls suffering as a result of the disasters brought about by God? I hate to belabor a point but Strawman Has a Point.  I know the point of this kind of fiction is to set up Strawmen for the brave heroes to knock over, but Ellanjay can't even do that right.

As for the last part, anyone remember being a kid and being told by your mother or father that if friendship comes with strings attached, then they aren't really your friend? The same applies to God. Just as if your friend demands you jump through hoops to please them, means they aren't really your friend, if God can't accept humans as the sweaty, flawed creatures he created, then he's not your friend either. In fact, given all the shit he's put humanity through in this book, kissing up to him basically makes about as much sense as kissing up to an abusive spouse in hopes that maybe he'll beat his other children rather than you. It's just sick and wrong.

But Janie, in a move that makes me like her more and more, refuses to buy what Conrad's selling and we end that section with Conrad rolling his eyes and thinking about how she won't listen to the truth.

In Mali, Judd and Mr. Stein are still at the freaking airport. Mr. Stein talks about how unlikely it is that someone like him would be chosen to be a messenger for God and brags about how he's memorized scripture. He then recites something from Psalms, which makes me roll my eyes. Because Jews apparently never ever read the Old Testament and therefore Psalms would completely baffle them. Anyway, a pilot with the Super Special Awesome Secret Mark comes up to them, introduces himself as Immen and says that God sent him to help them and that's where the Judd and Mr. Stein's section ends.

In America,  there's actually a nice bit where Shelly and Vicki read emails after which Shelly teases Vicki about her crush on Judd. Naturally, Vicki denies having a crush on Judd and while this is standard teenage banter, it's actually kind of nice. Even in the face of the apocalypse, teenagers will be teenagers and it's nice to see them occasionally act like teenagers.

Mark returns with Lenore and her baby, apparently ahead of Conrad and Janie by a few minutes, and the chapter ends with Vicki saying "We need to figure out what to do about Janie." Already my teeth are in grinding position because when they mention "doing something about Janie," I sincerely doubt they mean continuing to welcome her in Christian hospitality and love and probably mean telling her she could either accept Zod or be chained up in the basement or something like that. I would say they could just kick her out, but you know they would never just do that what with their paranoia that she'll rat them out to the GC. So they'll probably decide they need to really drive the point home. My rebuttal is essentially Revelation 3:20.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Note, that it's all between them and God and that in this, God is not forceful at all: he simply waits. He doesn't strong-arm you or kick the door down or anything.

Oh and regarding my whole links game, if any of you can think of any good "America" ones, that would be appreciated. I'm starting to run out of them and I'm trying to liven up my posts here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ellanjay are Wusses

Again, some of the links in my post may not be work-safe and I don't want anyone getting fired because they read my blog. So if you're at work, please wait until you get home to click the links.

Fred Clark has already written about how Ellanjay violate Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing* and he does, but I'm more interested in how Jenkins manages to violate his own rules for writing. I stumbled onto this little gem while doing an archive binge at Writers' Digest and I find myself shouting, "Physician heal thyself," until I'm hoarse. BTW, if you need to contract laryngitis for any reason, just read that article until you throw out your voice from all the screaming.

So like I said, Judd for some reason thinks that Mr. Stein has gone off the deep end because he wants to go to Africa and witness to those who haven't heard of Christ. I'm not sure why he thinks Mr. Stein has gone off the deep end--seeing visions and portentious dreams has been a regular part of Christianity for a while--but frankly, I think it's because Mr. Stein wants Judd to come with him and Judd's a wuss. That's my theory and I'm sticking with it until I'm offered proof otherwise.

But Mr. Stein does do something good: he makes Jamal promise to look after Lionel and Samuel while he's gone. And much as it pains me to admit it, Judd does demonstrate some small courage: he's not sure about the Africa trip so he prays to God that if it's his will, he'll go. Naturally the section ends with him and Mr. Stein getting fake passports and Hat Dude sneaks them to the airport.

In America, Vicki is getting ready for yet another Bible study even though most of the inhabitants of the school are already converts so is there really a reason for them to constantly rehash the same few verses over and over again? But Janie is missing and they're worried that she might be heading to sell them out to the GC. That's all that happens on the American side.

In Israel, Lionel and Samuel are skittish around Jamal, a nice little touch which actually makes sense: they after all have good reason to believe that Jamal's not that thrilled to have them in his house. 

Samuel still wants to set up a meeting with his daddy, something which seems pretty damn inexplicable when you take into account that Daddy arrested one of his friends and were it not for the fact that the GC are inexplicably sissies, he probably would have tortured a confession out of him. Don't get me wrong: it's nice to see an RTC concerned about someone who isn't a fellow RTC, but given the circumstances...

The section ends with Samuel taking them to a warehouse where some RTCs, who actually are a bit pro-active and probably a lot more interesting to read about than the Tribbles, are smuggling religious literature inside crates of GC literature.

Judd and Mr. Stein are at the airport trying to get a flight and I will credit Ellanjay with one thing here: they actually acknowledge Africa as a continent rather than a monolithic nation. When Mr. Stein asks the vendor for a ticket to Africa, the vendor, who is named Vivian, responds with "Uh, what city, you dumbass?" Again, one of my major pet peeves is when Africa is treated like a monolithic country when it's a continent with over fifty different countries. You wouldn't have a character talk of North America like it's a homogenous land consisting of stereotypes that bear a suspicious resemblance to Texans; you shouldn't do the same with Africa.

But Ellanjay loses what few points I was willing to give it when the vendor, in a futile attempt to get Mr. Stein to narrow things down a bit, asks about natural features, but it isn't until they run into a fellow believer named Mr. Isaacs that they get anywhere. Remember kids: only RTCs are remotely competent. Though my sympathies are still with the poor agent: how would you feel if someone came up to you and said "Hey I'd like to go to Africa," but couldn't or wouldn't tell you where in Africa he wanted to go? So yeah, more signs that Ellanjay don't believe in research and their cultural insensitivity is through the roof.

So apparently where God wants Mr. Stein to go is near the Northern Sahara between the 10 and 40 degrees latitude. Right now, apparently God wants them to go to Bamako aka the capital city of Mali. Meanwhile, I'm frantically searching Wikipedia in anticipation of their missionary trip just so I can see all the things they got horribly wrong. Because Ellanjay believe America is the greatest nation on earth so there's no point in learning about other nations, especially since all national stereotypes are true. But frankly, if we're to be truly honest, I think Ellanjay are going to wuss out. Something will happen and their heroes will be unable to go to Mali, thus sparing them having to research another land and culture. I base this on experience: it's been proven time and time again that Ellanjay will use any excuse they can to wuss out of the hard stuff involved in writing and writing about another culture is pretty hard sometimes.

*About Kurt Vonnegut: I still feel somewhat guilty in that even though I love, love his rules on writing and I laugh at most quotes attributed to him, I still haven't been able to make it through any of his novels. For some reason, everytime I try, it feels like he's holding me back from the action, standing in front of the screen and keeping me from getting close. I feel guilty because like I said, I do consider him wise and funny, but I just can't get into his works.