Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Step Above Jack Chick

Vicki tries to call Natalie, but someone else answers when she picks up the phone and claims not to know who she is talking about. Now for those of you with faint hope that the GC might be doing what I suggested they could be doing, pretending to be Natalie in order to trap Vicki, I've gotta extinguish that hope. Because we can't have competent enemies for our heroes to battle. That would be hard!

:sighs: Is it a characteristic of RTC literature that the bad guys be utterly laughable or is this an Ellanjay trope?

Mark and the other YTF are discussing Token Jew's missive, talking about the mark of the beast. There is a brief shot against conspiracy nuts in here. But like their shots against international financiers (or Jews, as Fred puts it), it feels pathetic. Especially since Ellanjay don't realize that they're engaging in their own conspiracy thinking.

“I used to know a guy who thought his social security number was the mark of the beast,” Conrad said. “Guess he was wrong.”

After they discuss all this, Janie demonstrates a display of conscience, a rarity in these novels.

Janie put a hand to her face and shook her head. “If Dr. Ben-Judah is right, and I believe he is, the people in that school are going to take Carpathia’s mark and they’ll suffer.” Janie turned and wiped away a tear. “I don’t want to be caught by the GC, and I sure don’t want them to chop my head off. But we ought to tell these people the truth rather than run away from them.”

The YTF hold a vote and decide to go back and preach to the people waiting in line at the school.

Meanwhile, Vicki and Darrion are bravely watching the news.

Religious experts said the world had never seen such a widely exposed miracle. “This godlike display of power can only be compared to the mythical accounts of the Bible,” one expert said. “In those stories, the miracles were only viewed by a few people. This one was seen all over the world at the same time.”
“That’s not true,” Darrion said. “Lots of people saw the miracles in the Bible, didn’t they?”

And I'm playing the part of the Wikipedian Protester. Given that the Bible was written during a time in which to suggest the Earth was round would likely get you ridiculed and that no one even knew about the other continents on other side of the world, I'm going to call BS on "Everyone, including people in the Amazon rainforest, knew about the miracles in the Bible" theory. Unless, Ellanjay believe as the Mormons do that Jesus came and witnessed to the peoples of North America, but let's not even go the Mormon route. I don't know Mormon theology well enough to get into a long debate about it, so it's better to just leave it alone.

Vicki finally talks with Natalie. The reason she couldn't get a hold of her earlier was because she'd been transferred to a new department. Now in a well-written double agent story, the double agent would be wondering if her employers were onto her and transferred her to either test her or keep a better eye on her, but we all know Ellanjay haven't even considered that.

Basically the conversation goes like this with Natalie saying, "I've got a plan to get Charlie, the Shairtons, and Zeke out." Vicki's like "I'm in" and that's it.

Mark is back at the school walking through the line. He decides to gauge the views of the people in the school by talking to this guy and his son, who is named Quin. But Mark gives up before he can get a single, "Jesus Died for Your Sins!" out. Again, St. Stephen aka first Christian martyr, is ashamed.

But Janie had better luck. A woman with her baby is all "Tell me more." Brace yourselves, people, we've got another "God loves you which is why he is trying to kill you horribly" scene coming up, complete with dialogue that belongs in a Jack Chick tract.

“The Bible talks about this? I thought it just listed the things you shouldn’t do.”
Mark opened his computer and showed Terry verses that predicted what they had experienced the past three years. Terry read each word and seemed eager to hear more.

Okay, I'll give them a little credit: it's a step above Jack Chick. In Chick-land, the woman would go, "The bible? What's that?" and the Chick surrogate would say, "It's the inspired work of God," and the woman would go "Baptize me now!" But you gotta admit, this is still pretty lousy dialogue, especially since Terry isn't like, "Wait...first you jump to Daniel then to Revelation then to Matthew. How is this a straightforward reading of the Bible?"

And Terry, I'll admit, doesn't immediately go "Baptize me now!" after Mark reads to her. Instead the chapter ends with her saying, "I'll think about it."

Sorry but I'm afraid this week will have to be a one-chapter snark. I thought about making it two, but this snark is long enough.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Our Universe vs. LB-verse

The next chapter begins with Mark and the others walking around, when Janie asks a few questions. Her questions are the age-old "Why does God let bad things happen to us?" or basically, the conundrum affectionately referred to as Theodicy. Surprisingly enough, they do try to attempt to answer these questions beyond the weaksauce "Zod's trying to get your attention" answers.

“Believers have gone through tough things all along,” Shelly said. “Sometimes becoming a Christian gets them in trouble with their family. Friends turn their backs. The government cracks down on them or they have a hard time at their jobs. Trouble doesn’t mean God’s abandoned you or that he isn’t in control. He promises to go through the hard times with you.”

This would work in some other universe where Zod isn't actively causing the hard times the characters are going through. Again, everyone talks about how eeevil Nicky and the GC are but the worst Nicky could do was nuke nine cities and kill off a few NPCs. Zod on the other hand...Need I list all his atrocities again?

Shelly put an arm around Janie. “I learned from Vicki a long time ago that we’ll always have questions and doubts. That you struggle with them is proof that your faith is working on you. God is making your faith more real every day. He’s preparing you for something.”

Uh yeah, yet another answer that would work maybe in our universe but not the LB-verse. The trouble with using these books as an evangelism tool is that the rules of the book-verse and our verse seldom have much in common. This "hang on and hope" makes sense in our verse where God seldom reveals itself in real tangible ways, but not the LB-verse where he swats aside nukes and regularly rains down death from above.

Vicki and Darrion meanwhile are with Maggie. Vicki receives an email from Natalie. The Shairtons are being questioned and they've brought in someone else on charges of subversion. Me, I keep wishing it turns out that she's not really talking to Natalie but to a GC goon on the other end. She seems awfully confidant in her friend's ability to play double agent and it'd be nice for a change for the GC to show a little competency. But I know that'll never happen: good only triumphs in this series because evil is dumb.

So they get to talking with Maggie and she tells them her story. Apparently she and her husband were :gasp: :choke: agnostics who had the gall to demand extraordinary evidence. Their kids however were converted via a college church group. Naturally, she and her husband were worried and even told the kids to stop trying to convert them, but when their kids both married committed RTCs, Maggie realized they weren't going to snap out of it.

“They didn’t have to,” Maggie said. “They lived it. They showed a love to their kids I’d never seen. They were there for me when Don died—that’s my husband. Sometimes I’d wonder if I could have what they had, but I’d push the thought away. It was too painful to think that Don and I had missed out on the greatest truth of the universe.”

Wait, so what do you mean by "a love to their kids I'd never seen?" Is this another case of the "all good people are RTCs whereas all non-RTCs are raging coke fiends" mindset seen in so many bad Christian literature? Because apparently it's impossible to be a good parent and a non-RTC.

Not to mention, since you've now drank the flavor-aid and accepted RTCianity, you know what that means for your husband, who died unsaved before the Rapture? For those of you who don't, it means Don's currently roasting on a spit in Hell.

Next chapter is one with Lionel and Judd and involves Exciting!Email!Action! All they do is read Token Jew's latest epistle.

While the prophecies that foretold Messiah were fairly straightforward and led me to believe in Jesus as their unique fulfillment, I prayed that God would reveal the key to the rest of the prophecies. He did this by impressing upon me to take the words as literally as I took any others from the Bible, unless the context and the wording itself indicated otherwise.

Or as I summed it up, "taken literally except when you shouldn't and don't worry your pretty little head about it. Let me do the thinking for us."

In other words, I had always taken at its word a passage such as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” Why then, could I not take literally a verse which said that John, the writer of Revelation, saw a pale horse? Yes, I understood that the horse stood for something. And yet the Bible said that John saw it. I took that literally, along with all the other prophetic statements (unless they used phrases such as “like unto” or others that made it clear they were symbolic).

So when you read about the white horse carrying a bow as to conquer, what makes you interpret that as a polyglot promising peace. Oh yeah, the whole no arrow thing. But it also doesn't say he has a bowstring, so how do you know it's a weapon bow and not a hair bow?

Am I demonstrating clearly enough, why Token Jew is full of it?

Token Jew then finally proclaims that Nicky is the anti-Christ, which makes me headdesk. Real brave of you waiting three and a half years in, even though you knew the earth only had seven years to live.

He quotes Revelation 13:11-18 in order to show that Leon is the false prophet, but you know what: I'm just going to quote the entire passage of Revelation 13 just to drive home how interpreting this literally is a fool's game. I don't like doing bigass quotes but things need to be said.

The Beast out of the Sea

13 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

“If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity they will go.
If anyone is to be killed[c] with the sword,
with the sword they will be killed.”
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

Tell me as you read this passage how much of it sounds like polyglot promising peace and his laughable minion. I really wish I had Fred's education needed to take this apart, but I don't. I only hope by showing the actual verses that I've demonstrated my point.

In all God’s dealings with humans, this is the shortest period on record, and yet more Scripture is devoted to it than any other period except the life of Christ. The Hebrew prophets spoke of this as a time of God’s revenge for the slaughter of the prophets and saints over the centuries. But it is also a time of mercy. God compresses the decision-making time for men and women before the coming of Christ to set up his earthly kingdom.

So apparently all those other verses about enduring hardship and persecution at the hands of authorities are only referring to a specific seven-year window and all the early Christians, along with everyone born before Darby and Scofield, have been reading the Bible wrong. Just as all that stuff about loving your neighbor and doing unto others, only applies to the Millenial kingdom.

This is clearly the most awful time in history, but I still say it is also a merciful act of God to give as many as possible an opportunity to put their faith in Christ. Oh, people, we are the army of God with a massive job to do in a short time. May we be willing and eager to show the courage that comes only from him. There are countless lost souls in need of saving, and we have the truth.

Yet even though you have the truth, you don't run up to people getting the mark (which he's already said will damn them for all eternity) and preach to them news of salvation. Yeah, you'd be killed but you've also established that martyrdom is win-win for you. If you really cared about all these lost souls, then why hide your light under a bushel? Preach at all times.

It may be hard to recognize God’s mercy when his wrath is also increasing. Woe to those who believe the lie that God is only “love.” Yes, he is love. And his gift of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin is the greatest evidence of this. But the Bible also says God is “holy, holy, holy.” He is righteous and a God of justice, and it is not in his nature to allow sin to go unpunished or unpaid for.

We wouldn't have a problem with God being justice were it not the sins he chooses to punish. Remember, Gandhi, who lived Christian virtues more fully than most Christians, is burning in Hell, whereas according to Ellanjay's words, Fred Phelps will get a ticket to Heaven because he's said the all-important prayer.

There's more in Token Jew's missive but basically it can be summed up as, "if I'm wrong, ignore me. But I've been right thus far."

The chapter ends with Westin coming in and saying that Z-Van's gone to worship the statue and deal with Nicky's enemies. That's where I'll leave us for this week. I think I've quoted enough passages for you to dissect.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cars: Magical Devices that Ellanjay Can't Fathom

Like I said before, what follows is more action verbs. As Fred put it in his latest snark, you can't really call Ellanjay's stuff hack work because even hack work would be better than this. Even a hack like Dan Brown could throw together a decent action scene even if he'd begin it like this, "The Greatest Investigative Reporter Buck Williams..." I apologize once again for the poor quality of snark.

So the American YTF are on the bridge when a GC helicopter flies up ready to take them out. Conrad tells them to jump out of the car and they watch as he drives off the bridge. It's a moment that would be dramatic and would work if we thought the characters were in actual danger. That and before they really start crying and going "Oh Conrad!" the book nullifies what little tension it had built by having Conrad walk up behind them and be like, "What's all the crying about?"

The YTF sneak around in the woods, making sure to stay behind the trees so the helicopter doesn't see them. Yet another technological advance that Ellanjay haven't heard of: heat-vision in helicopters. I'm fairly certain that hiding behind trees wouldn't work.

But horrors of horrors, as they get close to town, they realize they left most of their money in the now-wrecked vehicle. But Ellanjay won't let his heroes even suffer the inconvenience of an empty belly; Shelly is able to wrangle together enough cash to buy bread, bologna, cheese, and water.

Lionel is looking for Judd and again, there's some stuff in here that would make for great horror movie material, with dead and dying people begging for pain medicine, but it's told in a detached fashion and isn't lingered on long so we don't get the full effect. Like I said before, showing how horrible the apocalypse would really be would detract from Ellanjay's haw-hawing so they don't.

Judd has a fever dream in which he sees Nada, Ryan (yet another mention), and other people who have died in the apocalypse, along with a dragon coming towards him. He awakes to see Lionel standing over him. Woo-hoo, they're reunited.

Vicki and Darrion are still in the trunk, listening as they pursue their friends. Vicki is suffering actual physical discomfort--hunger and thirst--but it isn't lingered on long. The car arrives at the police station and they open the trunk with a crowbar, but just as they're starting to get out, they hear the GC coming and that's where the chapter ends.

Next chapter, Vicki and Darrion are struggling as the GC start to unlock the trunk. In addition to safety latches in trunks, Ellanjay also failed to foresee car manufacturers coming out with those electronic key fobs WHICH ALLOW YOU TO OPEN THE TRUNK WITHOUT STICKING YOUR KEY IN!

Sorry for the allcaps, but I'm really really sick of the "Vicki and Darrion in the trunk" plotline.

They somehow dig through the back and go out the front while the GC are working on opening the trunk. Me, I'm going, HOW THE HELL IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?! DO ELLANJAY EXIST IN SOME MAGICAL UNIVERSE WHERE THERE ARE NO CARS AND THEY CAN ONLY SPECULATE ON HOW THEY WORK?!

Seriously, someone draw me some schematics. Because unless they're in a minivan or something, I'm used to trunks being closed-off from the rest of the car so they shouldn't have been able to dig their way to the front seat using a crowbar and a fire extinguisher.

Vicki and Darrion hide underneath another patrol car. I headdesk. But the GC aren't completely rock-stupid and are like, "Hey someone's been here" and that's where Vicki and Darrion's section ends.

Judd and Lionel leave the tent hospital and start to speculate that soon Nicky's going to make everyone take the mark of the beast. I yawn.

We're back with Vicki and Darrion. Vicki and Darrion plan on going to Zeke's gas station. Unfortunately they notice a suspicious car parked at Zeke's gas station, so they decide to stay away. Vicki's like "What about calling him?" but Darrion says she doesn't have her phone anymore and Ellanjay actually remembers that pay phones went the way of the dodo once cell phones became readily available. So they decide to try some random guy's house...yeah, I'm with you. I'm not sure how that idea is supposed to work.

When the guy answers the door, they claim to be a youth organization going door-to-door to find out those skeptical of Nicky's resurrection or in other words, those clinging to RTCianity. The guy's like "Yeah, this neighbor of mine's been on about it, trying to get me to go to Token Jew's website, but we all know that's nonsense." Darrion snickers with him and ask where they can find said neighbor, whose name is Margaret (though I don't know if it's worth learning her name yet). He tells them and they leave.

Afterwards, Vicki's like "We shouldn't have lied to that guy." Darrion goes "So we should flat-out tell them we're RTCs?" Vicki hems and haws and just says, "Let me talk to the next person." They go to Margaret who lets them in. They use the phone only to hear from Zeke that his dad has been arrested and the station is crawling with GC so stay away.

Judd asks Westin about getting back to America. Westin promises he'll have them back within a week or so.

The American YTF are like we need money. Conrad offers to dive down into the water to get the money out of the car and I'm sure in the hands of someone else, someone who wasn't afraid to be cruel to their characters, this would be exciting and suspenseful but it isn't. Conrad gets the money without a hair on his RTC head being harmed.

Margaret or Maggie as the book refers to her as, is all you girls need a night's rest and they eagerly accept. But the chapter ends with Vicki waking up to the sound of an explosion and seeing Zeke's station go up in flames.

And two chapters seem to be enough to leave you with for this week. One can only do so many ragedumps and headdeaks at the stupidity of the characters.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pointless Action Scenes

I must apologize for the general crappiness of the snark I'm going to deliver this week. Y'see this week, the two chapters consist mostly of action scenes. Now in any other novel, the action scenes would be the best part, the culmination of all the things the novel had been working towards. We'd be on the edge of our seats wondering what was going to happen to our heroes. But since this is an Ellanjay novel and nothing can ever really happen to anyone nor can the heroes' actions have any effect on the plot, these action scenes are just a boring collection of action verbs. That disclaimer out of the way, let's get to it.

The chapter begins with the American YTF (minus Darrion and Vicki) driving along with the forest surrounding their home on fire. They wonder if they can make it through or if the fire will cook them. They make it. Woo...

As Firedrake pointed out in last week's comments, we can add emergency trunk releases to the list of things Ellanjay failed to foresee coming into being, along with cell phones. Because Vicki and Darrion are forced to struggle with a crowbar to force the trunk open in order to get more air.

In New Babylon, Judd is walking along, smirking about how he has it all figured out when he's hit by a golf cart. Apparently it's one hell of a golf cart going really fast because it sends Judd flying and he blacks out. Golf carts: yet another thing Ellanjay know nothing about.

Mark's driving through the inferno. Finally, one of them, Shelly asks about Vicki and Darrion, but all they can do is shrug their shoulders and pray.

Lionel's walking along looking for Judd. He runs into Z-Van who's gushing about Nicky. Westin reminds him of his promise to take Judd and Lionel back to the states but Z-Van's like, "Screw them."

While Conrad drives down the main road, they check the all-important email (you'd really think they'd leave behind a laptop. Surely you jest?). They receive one from Natalie who says she's been reassigned to Des Moines and that there was a raid on the Tribbles hideout but that the Tribbles got out with nary a hair on their RTC head harmed. Thank you for once again strangling a potential source for suspense in its cradle, Ellanjay. The chapter ends with them seeing a GC squad car.

The next chapter begins with a car chase. But horrors of horrors! The GC vehicle is newer which means it's faster so it'll soon overtake Our Brave Heroes. So the heroes start looking in back for stuff they can throw out in order to slow them down.

Vicki and Darrion are still in the trunk, wondering where they're going. They think Des Moines but they're not sure. They hear over the radio, the pursuit of their friends. Apparently eeevil GC are helpless in the face of someone throwing a spare tire at them, but they mention a helicopter is coming.

Judd wakes up in a tent hospital.

He felt a bandage on his left arm and noticed his legs were wrapped tightly with gauze. Red spots showed at his elbow, and his shirt was torn and bloody. A bag of fluid hung beside his bed, and there was a needle in his left hand. Every breath was like swallowing shards of glass through this crack down his parched throat.

Now waking up injured and scared in a tent hospital is very difficult to drain of horror, but luckily Ellanjay prove up to the task. There are some bits that in any other novel, would frighten and traumatize the hero (like when Judd realizes the person in the cot next to him is dead) but it's told in such a detached way that we're unable to feel any of it. I suppose the fun of going "Haw-Haw! We were right and you were wrong!" might be lessened if Ellanjay accurately portrayed how horrible the end of the world would be.

Here's the summary of the rest of the chapter. The kids push out some seats as they cross a bridge, slowing the GC pursuit. Lionel walks around smirking about all those people gushing about Nicky's resurrection. One of the tires on their car is shredded and the helicopter that the GC mentioned earlier is coming into view.

I thought about making this a three-fer snark especially since I read ahead and what we have to look forward to is more pointless action scenes, but I'm bored, so I'll leave you with this.