Saturday, February 22, 2014

RTCs are Cowards

Okay since there's no solid consensus on posting times and Fred's moving to Tuesday anyway, I guess I'll just keep posting on Saturdays unless someone objects.

Once again, I apologize for the general weakness of my snark, especially when Vicki's involved, because once again we've got another collection of action verbs. Occasionally they try to generate a little suspense, but given the rules of the LB-verse in that no one can do anything to change anything and the villains aren't the least bit competent, it's about as successful as trying to start a fire with wet wood. In fact, I'll just spoil the Vicki-Darrion-Charlie plot and get it out of the way, so I don't have to recite all these action verbs: they get make it to the hideout because the GC are less intelligent than the villains on Power Rangers.

Now that I've spoiled the Vicki plot, we can focus on Judd aka mini-Rayford. Judd is walking around and strikes up a conversation with a GC peacekeeper named Roy Donaldson. Roy is all gung-ho about this mark business and Judd, being the brave RTC that he is, testifies to him about the love of Christ and how if he takes the mark, he'll be damned for all eternity.


Judd, being the brave manly RTC that he is, says nothing.

Look, Judd, I know St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." Let me break it to you, Judd: right now, words are necessary. The world has three-and-a-half years left and you're standing next to a perfectly nice guy who's going to suffer for all eternity unless you say something to him. See this Hieronymous Bosch painting? That'll be him unless you OPEN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH AND SAY SOMETHING!

Granted there's a chance Roy might reject what Judd tells him, but so what? Death's a win-win business for Judd; if he's martyred, he gets a one-way ticket to heaven and DOESN'T HAVE TO ENDURE THE HORRIFIC SUFFERING THAT IS TO FOLLOW!

They do try to explain Judd's tongue-tied nature, but it is pure weaksauce, believe me.

Judd waited for a chance to talk with Roy about the truth, but the more they talked, the more it became clear that Roy had chosen the wrong path. Unless something happened to lift Carpathia’s trance over him, the boy would take the mark and his eternal destiny would be sealed.

Once again, Judd demonstrates that he truly is a mini-Rayford. Rather than actually be a rebel for Christ, he'd rather smirk about how he's got it all figured out. All around him, people are drowning, while Judd can swim, and rather than do something to try to save them, he swims off, smirking at all those people who are drowning. So in addition to Ellanjay being the anti-Huck as Fred puts it, we can also call them the anti-Bodhisattva. Lesson learned from Ellanjay: the most important thing to save is your own skin. Screw everyone else! No wonder the Christian Right is so enamored with Ayn Rand, despite her atheism.

Sorry to keep reiterating the same point over and over again, but some things need to be said.

Judd meets up with C.W. and to no one's surprise, C.W. is Chang Wong. Woo...

Next chapter, Judd and Chang walk and talk. Judd tells his story (via summary) and Chang tells his. He and his sister Ming, whom I'm assuming is the infamous Ming Toy, are both believers but their parents are dyed-in-the-wool Carpathites.

Chang's story is that he converted after finding a hidden church. All of its members had disappeared, but they left behind an envelope with the words "If we disappear" written on it. Chang read the note and promptly became an RTC. I find it surprising that given the Chinese government's crackdown on home churches that all of them would embrace PMD theology which states that all those verses about enduring persecution was really about a single seven-year-period at some distant point in the future which has yet to come in our time. I mean, since China is a beacon of democracy where all religions can practice in peace, what use would they have for these verses which come from 2 Corinthians, chapter four. Honestly...:eyeroll:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

Chang decides to take Judd home to meet his family for reasons...well they don't actually give any reason. But anyway, we get to meet Mr. and Mrs. Wong. Woo...

Well for those of you wondering, the Wongs are about as stereotypically Asian as you can imagine, with the quiet, submissive wife and the man of the house obsessed with achievement. Just take a look at this dialogue and tell me how many stereotypes you see there.

“I visit Personnel Department today. Show your grades, letters of recommendation, whole thing. They like it and say they will take your information straight to top. What do you think?”

:massages forehead: I suppose it could be worse, but I'm not quite seeing how.

Well that's it for this week. For those of you wondering, while Judd's chatting it up with Chang Wong's family, Vicki is safely at the new hideout, we get another mention of Ryan, and Lionel, for all I know, is floating in outer space because no one gave a single thought to what he was doing, even though he had misgivings about Judd meeting up with Chang in the first place. But then again, Lionel's black a minor character and like all minor characters in this series, he seems to know he's one, which is why he stays out of the way most of the time.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Those who would sacrifice Liberty...

Out of curiosity, since Fred has moved his posting time to Saturday, I was wondering if maybe I should move my posting day as well, since all the commentators are likely busy posting on Slacktivist on Saturday. Just a question, but if you think I should move to another date, please say in the comments which day would work best.

If it sounds like I'm rushing through the first chapter, it's because I am. There really isn't a lot going on that's snarkworthy, so I'll just give you the gist for now.

So Natalie's washing her eyes out and sticking with her story as the deputy commander questions her. You'd think, given her weaksauce answers (when asked the handcuffs, she plays dumb and says she thought she had cuffed him), but as always Good triumphs because Evil is dumb.

Vicki is driving along following the instructions Mark had given her.

Meanwhile, after many long chapters of being ignored, we cut to Lionel, who is thinking about Judd, and tell me there isn't just the slightest bit of Ho Yay in all this. Before you accuse me of reaching, I'll admit that maybe I am, but I'm fully in favor of anything that adds more slash to the LB-verse.

Lionel Washington sensed an old feeling creeping up on him. Judd was at it again, doing what he thought was right and not caring about anyone else. Though they had fought during their time together in Israel and in New Babylon, Lionel liked Judd. It was impossible not to like him. But when Judd made up his mind, nothing and no one could stop him.

Don't ask me what Judd is doing that Lionel finds so objectionable. For the most part, all Judd's been doing is praying and trying to make arrangements to get back home. Though there was that conversation with that C.W. guy. Maybe that's it, but don't quote me on this: I'm not positive.

Lionel goes downstairs to the hotel buffet to get some breakfast. Conveniently enough, there's a television present allowing Ellanjay to do their favorite trick of having the characters witness world-changing events via TV.

Leon comes on screen and makes this announcement.

“I want you to know that I will no longer be supreme commander of the Global Community.”
Many around Lionel gasped and the room fell silent.
Leon smiled. “At the potentate’s request, I have accepted, with great enthusiasm I might add, the new position of Most High Reverend Father of Carpathianism. The former Enigma Babylon One World faith will be replaced with a more perfect religion, one that worships a worthy object. That is, the one who raised himself from the dead, Nicolae Carpathia.”

So like I said before the EBOWF plot point went nowhere and did nothing...what was the point of it in the first place? Why not just have Nicky establish worship of himself in the first place?

Frankly I don't blame all the NPCs for flocking to Nicky rather than to Zod. Nicky after all gave a demonstrable show of power that didn't involve killing people horribly. The only time Zod managed that was when he resurrected the GT and no one was at all affected by that.

Leon then discusses the mark.

“Every man, woman, and child, regardless of their station in life, shall receive this mark on their right hand or on their forehead. Those who neglect to get the mark when it is made available will not be allowed to buy or sell until such time as they receive it. Those who overtly refuse shall be put to death, and every marked loyal citizen shall be deputized with the right and the responsibility to report such a one. The mark shall consist of the name of His Excellency or the prescribed number.”

And everyone in this verse just goes along with it. You'd think given the vast amount of horror films about the anti-Christ out there that someone would be like, "Wait a minute..." and have misgivings, but the vast PMD literature doesn't exist in LB-verse. Even though from what I've heard from Fred, Ellanjay do crib quite a bit from other end-times fiction.

A reporter asks what about the Jews and followers of Token Jew*? Leon just chuckles and is like, "Oh those crazy rebels. They'll see that Nicky is Lord."

There is a "What about citizens' rights?" question but it is brushed aside pretty quickly. Frankly if the mark were marketed better than in the weaksauce way Leon is doing it, I could see citizens embracing it. Look at what they've been through in just three-and-a-half years. They've been repeatedly traumatized by disasters and events that make 9/11 look like a picnic in comparison. If there's anything that might make them safer, they would embrace it. Just look at how quickly the Patriot Act was passed following 9/11. It isn't hard to convince people it's in their best interest to give up their rights in a time of crisis. Sure, you'll have a few holdouts, but the majority would give in.

“The miniature biochip will go under the skin as painlessly as a vaccination. It takes only a matter of seconds. Citizens may choose either their hand or their forehead. The procedure will leave a thin, half-inch scar, and to its immediate left will be the home region number in black ink. Some may also choose the initials NJC or even the name Nicolae, which would cover the left side of the forehead.

“The embedded chip will not only give evidence of loyalty to the potentate, but also will serve as a method of payment and receipt for buying and selling.”

They mentioned earlier that children had to take the mark as well. I'm going to assume that most of them will still be covered by the "Age of Accountability" rule and won't be sent to Hell for all eternity when TurboJesus returns, but Chang Wong can't be the only person in the whole LB-verse who gets the mark against his will.

The chapter ends with this:

Lionel grabbed the tray of food and walked to the elevator. Fortunato could fool members of the press and other viewers, but followers of God knew what was about to happen. Those who took the mark would lose their souls for eternity. Those who didn’t would lose their heads. Simple as that.

Just out of curiosity, aunursa, do all the RTCs know about Chloe's Magical Co-op? If so, how's that even possible? Do Ellanjay think that RTCs have a hive mind and that all you need to tap into it is to become one yourself? Because if that's not the case, I can see a lot of Christians starving to death or dying, but then again, the desperately poor are already likely dead in the LB-verse. After all, all the water's undrinkable and this habit of stockpiling for disaster is something that only the relatively well-off can afford.

Next chapter, the GC have gotten a lead on Vicki and what follows is again, more cloak-and-dagger-stuff. Mark is trying to direct Vicki to the new hideout but horrors of horrors! The battery on her phone dies!

Judd and Lionel meanwhile are walking around, looking at statues of Nicky and prayer cloths of him as well, and talking. Lionel worries that meeting up with C.W. is a bad idea, but Judd thinks that he's genuine, because no one in the GC would ever think to pretend to be an RTC online in order to trap traitors to the cause. That's unpossible.

As, Judd is walking along, we get one of the few instances of mourning in this verse, plus some actually decent writing.

As Judd made his way to the park, he noticed freshly planted trees and a new water fountain. He sat on a bench and looked at the beautiful garden. The last time he had been in the area, Nada had been waiting.
He whispered her name and a wave of emotion swept over him. He had recently e-mailed Sam and asked him to pass along some questions to Nada’s mother. “Why did you choose the name Nada?” Judd had asked.
“In some countries the name means ‘hope,’ ” Nada’s mother answered. “That certainly fits her personality. She was full of hope and promise for the future. But in our part of the world the name means ‘giving.’ ”
Judd closed his eyes. Giving. That definition fit as well. Nada had given her life for him, jumping in front of a jailer just as the man’s gun fired. One moment she was full of life, the next she was on the floor, her breath and blood escaping like some wounded animal’s.

Once again, I want to give the authors props for having one of their protags show basic human decency.

The chapter ends with Vicki and Darrion and Charlie trying frantically to hide their car by piling stuff on it. Since, I've peeked at the wiki, plus since Vicki's not an NPC, I'm not the least bit worried so I won't try to recount it, even though they try at suspense by giving us a cliffhanger ending.

*Forgive me but I refuse to use the term "Judah-ites." It just galls me.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Collection of Action Verbs

What we have to look forward to this week is a long chapter attempting to be all cloak-and-dagger hijinks kind of stuff, but the problem is since we know nothing can happen to the characters (I'm going to blow it for you and reveal that the worst that happens is Natalie gets sprayed with mace), it's just a boring collection of action verbs. I'm not sure just exactly all the things wrong with the YTF's big plan--mostly because I was so bored I just kind of went with it--but I have a feeling in real life that teenagers vs. Global dictatorship probably wouldn't end well. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Ellanjay learned all they needed to know about guerilla warfare by watching Red Dawn though that may not be entirely accurate: The heroes of Red Dawn actually did stuff and didn't just lie back and think of TurboJesus.

The chapter begins with Vicki and Darrion and Maggie all together in Maggie's car, watching the street very closely. They talk for a little bit. Apparently Natalie's original plan on how to free Charlie (no mention of the Shairtons) was to spray something in the guard's eyes and make a run for it. Because the eeeevil empire wouldn't dare consider wearing eye protection or even having multiple guards in an area ready to spray bullets. I'll give them credit for this much: even they admit that that plan probably wouldn't work.

Maggie is going to stay behind for when the GC come back. She says she'll spin a BS tale about how these teenage girls forced their way into her home.

Natalie and the Deputy Commander are driving Charlie around trying to get him to spill on where the hideout is. Uh, guys, you know what might work better than just driving around and hoping he spills the beans? Good old-fashioned torture. I mean, you are supposed to be an eeevil global dictatorship, so I doubt you'd have many moral objections to it so what the hell: why not torture a confession out of the guy.

Natalie secretly dials Vicki and pretends to handcuff Charlie. Meanwhile, Maggie calls the deputy commander and spins her little story about how the girls forced their way in.

Vicki and Darrion hide in Maggie's car as the GC approaches. Right, because the eeevil global dictatorship wouldn't turn over every nook and cranny near the place where two fugitives from justice were last seen.

The deputy commander order Natalie to stay with Charlie and goes to Maggie's house. When he goes in back, Natalie opens the car door, grabs Charlie, and they run to the car where Vicki and Darrion are hiding. If you're wondering Natalie chooses to stay behind and let Vicki and Darrion get Charlie out of there.

:massages temples: The reason they give for why this works is that the deputy commander is arrogant and won't wait for backup because he wants to get them himself, but this is still gotta be the stupidest plan that ever worked. Except for maybe Superman defeating Nuclear Man by blocking out the sun, but let's not bring up Superman IV.

Next chapter, Vicki mashes the accelerator and GTFO there, finally demonstrating an ounce of sense. Natalie throws off the deputy commander by lying on the wet grass, spraying her eyes with mace, and screaming. As the GC head off in the direction Vicki and the others went, Maggie comes out of her house, takes Natalie in, and helps her wash out her eyes. Yeah, because there's no such thing as electronic listening devices that the GC could have left behind in order to monitor Maggie in case the girls came back.

Next section, after so many chapters with him being barely mentioned, we hear from Judd. Woo...

Judd is browsing the website, thinking about whether or not to go with Z-van to Jerusalem, and reading responses. He reads this response:

Dear Young Trib Force,
I am seventeen and a believer in Jesus. I have been visiting New Babylon with my parents. My father is a huge supporter of N. C. and came to pay his respects at the funeral. He and my mother do not know of my faith in Christ. My father wants me to work for the GC. Though I’m still in high school, I have a number of skills with computers. The GC have given us a free apartment until I can be processed for employment. The last thing I want to do is work for the Global Community, but my father insists. We have had arguments and he will not listen. Me working for Carpathia is an honor greater than anything my father can imagine. Can you help me? I have only two believers I can talk to right now.
Please write as soon as possible.
C. W.

I'm going to assume C.W. is Chang Wong aka the guy who ends up getting the mark of the beast yet somehow doesn't lose his salvation and aka further proof of Ellanjay's tin ear when it comes to naming foreign characters. At least it's better than Ming Toy.

Judd decides the smart thing to do is to arrange a meeting with this C.W. because there's no way he could be pretending to be a believer in order to entrap them. :eyeroll:

Vicki and Darrion and Charlie are on the run, trying to hide from the GC. But Charlie wants to go back and rescue the Shairtons. Turns out Natalie was unable to get to them. In a well-written novel, the heroes would be forced to accept that the Shairtons are likely dead and be struck to the bone by the consequences of rebelling against a global dictatorship, but being that this is Ellanjay, they barely touch on it. Vicki tells Charlie that they can't go back and have to keep on moving.

Next we get some good albeit out of place writing as Vicki thinks about her family. While the section is well-written I object to it, primarily because when they're on the run from the GC, they shouldn't have much time to spend in contemplation. They should be cold, hungry, and miserable as they try to plan their next move. But I will post a small portion of this section because it did stay with me.

“I’m okay,” Vicki said. “I was just thinking about my sister petting those farm animals. She always laughed when she fed the goats. For some reason I can’t remember her face anymore. I try hard, but …”
A light flashed inside a house behind them. Tears ran down Vicki’s cheeks as she started the car and headed for the main road.

This is the first time in God-only-knows-how-many pages that Vicki has mentioned her family who was slaughtered in the Rapture. It also marks the only sign of any psychological trauma after having witnessed so many horrific disasters back to back. And what comfort does Ellanjay's theology have to offer Vicki? That she's concentrated evil otherwise Zod would have slaughtered her too.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

No Consequences for Anything

So Mark and the others are still hanging around the gym. Shelly mentions that a couple with the Zod-mark just showed up in a big van and offered to take them away to their farm. But Janie's all "What about all the people here?" Again, you can tell that while she's accepted Zod, she hasn't fully sipped the Flavor-Aid, seeing as she still lacks the trademark sociopathic tendencies we've come to expect from an RTC in these novels.

So Mark takes the microphone, steps up, and delivers this speech.

“If I could have your attention,” Mark said into the microphone. The room hushed and Mark began to sweat. He cleared his throat as people looked at him. “My friends and I have been talking with some of you about what’s happened the past three years. We’ve found something that’s made sense, and we’d like to share it with any of you who want to listen.”
“What are you talking about?” a woman in the back yelled.
“By listening to people who know the Bible, we believe that what happened in New Babylon was predicted a long time ago. And things are going to get worse.”
“Hey, pal,” Quin’s father said, “Carpathia just rose from the dead. I’d say that’s a good thing.”
“That depends on what you believe about Carpathia. If we’re right, he’ll make everybody worship him and take some kind of identifier on their forehead or their right hand.”

“Why shouldn’t we worship him?” Quin’s father said. “If he can come back from the dead he has to be god.”
“Let the kid talk,” someone said.
“Fine, but I get my say too! For all we know, this guy set the fire.”

Mark looked nervously around the room. He hadn’t planned on starting a debate; he simply wanted to tell people the truth. Now all eyes were on him. “If you want to follow Carpathia, that’s your decision. But if you feel like there’s something wrong with the whole Global Community, please come up front.”

Y'know you could point out that the GC's actions and values don't seem to match but Taylor "Too Awesome for this World" Graham seemed to be the only one who pointed out, "Hey they preach about freedom yet at the same time, they're imprisoning people like crazy and they preach peace but they sure love war."

What happens next is a standard altar call where they say the same prayer that's been said by every character, because as Fred has put it many times, Ellanjay's theology has more in common with spell-casting than with any Biblical notion of God.

And if you're wondering what consequences these characters face for finally showing some courage by preaching in front of people, the answer is none. They are forced to flee, but not a hair on their heads is harmed. At least when St. Stephen did his sermon, he faced actual, lasting consequences. Now I'm wondering why the Tribbles don't just preach continuously if there are few if any consequences for doing so.

Vicki receives an email from Mark talking about what we witnessed and mentioning that he's in Des Plaines and is willing to help her and Natalie free the Shairtons and Charlie. No word on whether they'll help any of the others imprisoned by the GC, but hey, they are NPCs so what do they care?

Natalie tells Vicki that the GC's lifted her prints and is going door to door with photos. For those of you wondering how Vicki'll escape, worry not. The GC comes to the door and Maggie plays senile and that's enough apparently. There are no consequences at all in this book.

Next chapter is mostly exposition, with Z-Van doing his part by telling Judd (and the readers) about the establishment of Carpathianism. I'll give them a little credit: it's a little less laughable than EBOWF. Once again, it talks about the eeevil mark (which will be a microchip) and I'm bored.

Next section is told primarily from Natalie's perspective. Natalie's like "Let me talk to the prisoners 'cause I know how these religious whackos think" because an eevil organization will totally use teenage girls as interrogators rather than someone more qualified.

Natalie talks to Charlie and tells him that the only way they can free him would be by getting him to lead them to Vicki and Darrion. o_O Okay not exactly sure how that works but given that I'm bored to death, I'll just go with it.

Mark goes to that couple's secret underground bunker.

Colin took him to the other side of the mound. Looking closely, Mark saw tracks on the grass that led to the side of the hill. At the base of the mound was a huge pile of firewood. Colin pointed a handheld device at the wood, and suddenly the pile split in two, revealing an underground bunker. “I poured the concrete and rigged the opening myself,” Colin said. “Must have taken years.” They walked inside and Colin closed the door. “I used to be into the militia. Way before the disappearances I started digging this, storing food and supplies, and getting ready for a nuclear holocaust. I didn’t want to die.”

Again, it amuses me whenever Ellanjay try to take potshots at militias given that they both demonstrate the same conspiracy-addled thinking. The only problem they have with Colin's stockpiling is that he's stockpiling for a nuclear holocaust, not TurboJesus.

Mark asks "Did you know about God?"

“I’d been to church a lot and listened to sermons, but it didn’t sink in. To me the Bible was a codebook with lots of secrets. When my wife finally showed me Tsion Ben-Judah’s Web site, I knew I had missed what the Bible is all about.”

Uh, don't Ellanjay treat the bible like codebook with lots a secrets that with the right code ring study can be interpreted? Again, there's a reason their shots at conspiracy nuts feel half-hearted.

There is a brief moment where Ellanjay ease off and let Vicki and Darrion be teenage girls, by letting them talk about Judd. But it doesn't last long. Natalie calls. Vicki tells her to get out of the organization before they make her get the mark, but Natalie's all "I can do more good on the inside." I'll give her credit: she so far has done more on the inside than St. Rayford and Our Buck. But I'm bored to death, so let's end the snark for this week.