Saturday, May 31, 2014

Baddy McEvilpants

I have to give a warning: after the epic pig ride, this week's probably going to be a let down in terms of snark. Kind of hard to top the epic pig ride when it comes to snark; heck, the epic pig ride pretty much snarks itself.

I think I finally remember who the hell Daniel is, not that many of you really care. Apparently Daniel Yossef (yes, another Jewy McJew name) was an Orthodox Jew (because there are no other kinds of Jews) who was like "I'll believe all this when I see it." And then he was killed by Nicky on live TV with the whole world watching and nobody but the RTCs care. Because all other religions apparently think murder is A-Okay. It also mentions that he was Sam's friend but given that this is the first we hear about this relationship...yeah, I'm understandably skeptical.

But anyway, let's get on with it.

Thousands had gathered to watch Nicolae’s every move. Many supported him, flocking outside the temple like it was some sporting event. But Carpathia’s words and actions repulsed followers of Jesus Christ and Orthodox Jews. Lionel had heard how cold-blooded Nicolae could be, but he never dreamed the man would kill in front of a live camera. Lionel couldn’t understand why anyone would follow this evil man.

This is a classic example of what the Turkey City Lexicon calls a "Signal From Fred." For those too lazy to click on the link, a "Signal from Fred" is when the author makes subconscious critical comments about the lack of quality in their work. For example, saying something like "this sounds like a bad movie." Here, Ellanjay are subconsciously admitting that they've given no good reason for why everyone in the world worships and follows Nicky Hindu Kush. It might work if they claimed that everyone was afraid of him (though you can only coast so far on that), but no, Ellanjay claims that everyone loves him.

Sam wonders to Lionel if Daniel accepted Christ before he died. Me, I'm like "Hello, don't all Christians get the Super Special Awesome Invisible Marks?" But Continuity must have done something terrible to Ellanjay when they were kids because they sure hate it a lot.

Oh, and I've got to apologize. I thought Micah, whom I dubbed "That Guy," was the literal prophet, but apparently it's just what Chaim Rosenzweig is calling himself. I'm not sure if that makes the scenario better or worse. I lean towards better because at least a perfectly good minor prophet's name isn't defiled by appearing in this novel, but...yeah, file this under flummoxed.

Apparently David Hayseed still works for the GC because he's able to hack GC TV so he can have Chaim (I refuse to call him "Micah." I just refuse.) give his two cents about Nicky's desecration.

“As Carpathia continues,” Dr. Rosenzweig said, “you should be able to see the laver where the priests wash their hands before they approach the main altar. The temple was creatively placed over a series of underground waterways where gravity allows constant water pressure for the various cleansings. Of course, he has no business in this place, and even a ceremonial washing of his hands will not exonerate him for defiling it.”

So the epic pig ride wasn't the defiling part, it was the murder? Then why have the epic pig ride in the first place? It did nothing to help Nicky's already laughable reputation. As said before, wet cardboard painted lime-green and hot-pink would be more intimidating than Nicky.

But as Nicky washes, his hands turn all bloody. But of course, only RTCs are shocked by it.

The Jews in the temple are all "Oy Vey!"* about Nicky defiling it through murder. Nicky's all "Leave before I kill you to death!" and the Jews do. Before you criticize their cowardice, they do grumble under their breath as they do, so clearly they are as brave as the Tribbles who bravely do nothing to stop the antichrist.

Chaim continued, contrasting Carpathia’s rantings with the way God had displayed his glory. “God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments were handed down. He appeared again when Moses dedicated the Tent of God. And finally he showed himself at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple on this very site. Should God choose, he could reveal himself even today and crush under his foot this evil enemy. But he has an eternal plan, and Antichrist is merely a bit player. Though Antichrist has been granted power to work his horror throughout the world for a time, he shall come to a bitter end that has already been decided.”

Need I remind you that they're explicitly saying that God is responsible for massive amounts of suffering yet he's supposed to be the hero of this book? And you wonder why I grind my teeth so much.

Once again, I'm skipping Vicki's part because nothing happens.

Sam, having not completely drunk the Flavor-Aid, wants to do something to stop Nicky from desecrating the temple. In the middle of all this, we get this headdesker of a statement.

Sam finally stood, his face streaked with tears. “We’ll never know if Daniel truly believed in God or not. Carpathia took his life in front of all these people and we’re not doing anything.”

Am I the only one who remembers the Super Special Awesome Invisible Zod-marks?

Oh and Nicky's going to sacrifice the pig he rode.

Next chapter, well I'm going to let this speak for itself.

The holy men cried out, tearing their robes as Nicolae approached the huge pig. In the street, the animal had been slow and seemed drugged. Now it was thrashing around, squealing, and straining at the ropes. Two men struggled to hold it as Nicolae laughed.

He jumped at the animal and slipped, the pig dodging him. “Want to play?” Nicolae howled. Then he leapt onto the pig’s back, sending the animal to its knees. For the next few seconds the pig tried to knock Nicolae off, but it was no use. Finally, Carpathia plunged his knife into the animal’s throat.

Nicolae fell to the ground, a flood of blood soaking his clothes. The pig went wild, thrashing and pulling its handlers. As the blood flow slowed, the pig fell and Nicolae cupped his hands under its neck. Lionel had to look away. The crying and wailing of the holy men reached a crescendo and one priest screamed, “He has thrown the animal’s blood on the altar!”

Sorry for the quote but there are times in which Ellanjay's own words speak so much more powerfully than any snark I could ever give. I have to remind you that Ellanjay intend for us to take this seriously, to see this scene as one of horror.

Sam wants to witness to the crowd, being all "They need to hear the truth." But he's drowned out by the crowd. Oh and I offer yet another quote as we hear more about Nicky's impeccable fashion sense.

Carpathia washed off the blood and dried himself. Someone off camera handed him the shimmering white robe, silver sash, and gold sandals he had worn the day before.

After getting dressed, he places his statue in the temple. The crowd goes nuts and a riot ensues. Nicky's all "I'm taking back my seven-year peace treaty" and Chaim tries to convert the crowd to the Tribbles' ethos of doing nothing.

Carpathia swung the microphone to his lips. “That is right! You will rue the day when you dared—” “
You!” Chaim roared and pointed at Nicolae. “You shall let God’s chosen ones depart before his curse is lifted, lest you face a worse plague in its place.”
“I have always been willing to listen to reasonable men,” Carpathia said. “I will be at the Knesset, available to negotiate or to answer honest inquiries from my subjects.”

I can't be the only one who notices that Nicky goes from being "Bwaah! Bwaah!" back to being Peacey McPeace-Peace within a few lines. That is grade-A bullshit.

The chapter ends with Chaim giving a wordier, much less cool version of Gandalf's "Fly you fools!" line as he tells them all how to get to Petra, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE ANTICHRIST WHO'S DETERMINED TO KILL THEM ALL!

*Yeah, I'm exaggerating there but not by much.

If you're wondering about the title, it's because Nicky has become so cartoonishly evil, he might as well be named "Baddy McEvilpants."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

It's Finally Here: The Epic Pig-Riding Scene

Oh man, oh man, oh man...y'know I'd heard about it but hearing about isn't really the same as reading it for yourself.

I'm talking, of course, about the pig-riding scene. Yes, dear readers, we're finally here.

Not much really happens at first, just Judd standing around and talking. Oh and Viv Ivins makes her first appearance.

But about the is single-handedly the stupidest thing I'd ever heard, so stupid that it comes right around and becomes awesome. It's stupid-awesome. In fact, it's so stupidly awesome that I regret the book rushes through it. C'mon, Ellanjay, throw me a bone here! But still I feel the need to put appropriately epic music here.

Besides, the whole pig-riding thing just raises so many questions. They say the pig is drugged so it'll accept Nicky as a rider, but drugging animals from what I can see tends to make them trip out rather than suddenly become able to ride. But the biggest question is how the hell did he make a pig big enough to ride in the first place? I know pigs can grow to be really big, but I've never seen one the size of a mule or horse, with nostrils the size of one's fists. Pigs as a general rule are made for eating not for riding. So I have to know: how long has Nicky been planning the Epic Pig Ride? Did he have some kind of evil GMO organization that's devoted years to breeding a pig for this very purpose? Someone write fanfiction for this, because there are just too many unanswered questions begging for answers.

Judd watched in fascination and revulsion as the pig walked a few more steps and stopped. A leather saddle was fastened around its middle, complete with stirrups. The animal seemed woozy, unaware of the crowd’s whooping and yelling. Though GC handlers had scrubbed the pig clean, the stench almost took Judd’s breath away.

In addition to fanfiction, I really want fanart of this pig-riding scene. Put a little shriner's hat on Nicky and the pig. Words cannot convey just how rich this scene is. Though I've got to be pedantic here. If they've scrubbed the pig clean, there shouldn't be much of a stench. Despite their reputation, pigs are actually fairly clean animals, hygiene-wise. Yes, they wallow in mud but only because they have to cool off somehow (no sweat glands) and even baby pigs will have one spot where they make waste and they won't wallow in that.

“Why wouldn’t they use a horse?” Lionel said.
“He’s putting all religions in their place,” Sam said, “especially Jewish and Christian religions.”
“That’s right. Jews don’t eat pigs,” Lionel said. “And since Christianity comes out of the Jewish faith, Carpathia offends two groups with one ride.”

Yeah, I get how this is supposed to offend Jews (Don't eat Pork/Not Even with a Fork) but the only Christian sect in these novels liable to be offended are the Seventh Day Adventists. And isn't there another faith that considers pigs taboo, something that starts with Is and ends with lam? Or is this a repeat of the old rule that every other faith is just an attempt to deny that Jesus is Lord except for the Jews who will convert or die and burn in hell at the End of Days?

So Fortunado is still itchy and is all "Behold the Lamb that takes away the sins of the World!" And everyone is bowing before him save for our brave RTCs, of course. I'm surprised, given what cowards the Tribbles are, that they didn't just bow and say that in their hearts they bow to Jesus, like they usually do in these kinds of situations.

But Hattie Durham, not having sipped the flavor-aid, defies the Tribbles' ethos of doing nothing by doing something. She stands up and basically calls Nicky out.

“Woe unto you who would take the place of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” the woman continued. “You shall not prevail against the God of heaven!”

As you guessed, since Hattie is the great Butt Monkey of Babylon, it doesn't end well.

Hattie Durham didn’t have time to react. She burst into flames and Judd fell to the ground, shaking, screaming, scared out of his mind. Sam and Lionel huddled close, their eyes covered. Judd wondered if they would be next. Judd peeked at Hattie once more and saw fire engulfing her body. She seemed to melt in the white-hot heat, her body shrinking to the ground. The sun appeared again, chasing the darkness. A soft breeze blew Hattie over, and Judd noticed her shadow imprinted on the ground.

I have to give credit: not a bad scene here. It is hurt by the fact that Zod, in these novels, has already slain billions of people in much more gruesome ways than Nicky and remember Zod is supposed to be the hero of these novels. It's also hurt by the fact that of course, the Butt Monkey of Babylon would be the one actually martyred for the faith because we've gotta show how eeevil the bad guys are without letting anyone important really suffer.

Okay, confession time, there has been some stuff on Vicki's end. I've fast-forwarded through much of it, because compared with pig-riding it's really dull; all it is talking. Basically they talk about sending Manny (the guy who became a believer in prison) to deal with the whole Claudia subplot. That out of the way, onto the second chapter.

It's freaking dull with them talking about what we've already witnessed. But then, Nicky makes another speech.

“I was never entombed!” Carpathia began. “I lay in state for three days for the world to see. Someone was said to have risen from this spot, but where is he? Did you ever see him? If he was God, why is he not still here? Some would have you believe it was he behind the disappearances that so crippled our world. What kind of a God would do that?”

Raise your hand if, despite all the Bwaah! Bwaah! talk, Nicky's made more cogent points than the RTCs. Again, if Satan wants to recruit people for his war against Heaven, just say, "God's the one who took your children, killed people in earthquakes and repeated bombardments, poisoned your water, and stung you with locusts." Present proof and see what side more sane people would choose. Remember Zod and TurboJesus are supposed to be the heroes of this novel according to Ellanjay.

After Nicky's speech, people line up in droves to get Marked and bow before a golden statue of Nicky. And that's all that happens in the second chapter. To supplement this snark, I'll add a third one.

It turns out the reason Leon Fortunado is so itchy is not because of an STD, but because a plague of boils is breaking out on anyone who bows towards the statue or accepts the Mark.

But guess what? Yet another prophet has come, one calling himself Micah. :grinds teeth: Because the GT weren't irritating enough we've gotta suffer through a sequel appearance.

I'm going to assume just as the GT were supposed to be the literal Moses and Elijah, this is supposed to be the literal Micah as in the guy the book is named after. Something tells me the most famous verse of Micah won't be quoted by this prophet. For those of you who don't know the most famous verse, it's Micah 6:8.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Hard to square that verse with TurboJesus isn't it? Since when have any of the characters ever walked humbly in their life? Certainly not St. Rayford or Our Buck. And TurboJesus doesn't seem to have much love for mercy. But then again, Micah, like most of the prophets was about Islamocommiefascist bullshit like the social gospel so we probably shouldn't pay too much attention to what his book actually says. Besides beating swords into plowshares would put Lockheed Martin and many others out of business.

The GC try to do the sensible thing and shot That Guy (I refuse to call him "Micah") but they are paralyzed and unable to.

Nicky approaches That Guy.

After one of Carpathia’s troops fell to the ground scratching and writhing in pain, Carpathia said, “I concede I have you to thank for the fact that nearly my entire workforce is suffering this morning.”
“Probably all of them,” Micah said.
“If they are not, you might want to check the authenticity of their marks.”
“How did you do it?”
“Not I, but God.”
“You are looking into the face of god,” Carpathia said.
“On the contrary, I fear God. I do not fear you.”

:grinds teeth even harder: I feel like Fred MacIntire* at the Hell House. Note how there's not a single word in here about love or anything approaching that. I know I keep using the abusive father analogy a lot but Ellanjay really give me no choice but to do so. I'm going to quote from John 10:11-17 as a palate cleanser.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Note how in this little parable Jesus is dishing out there's a difference between the good guy and the bad guy. In Ellanjay's fiction, the only difference between Jesus and Satan is that Satan tries to murder all his enemies but fails. Jesus succeeds.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Nicky's all "What would it take for 'God' to lift this spell?" That Guy responds by saying, "Let the Israelis go!" Nicky is all "Never!"

So That Guy decides to preach a sermon. I'm going to have ground my teeth into powder by the time this chapter's over, aren't I?

“Citizens!” Micah said in a clear voice. “Hear me! You who have not taken the mark of loyalty! There may still be time to choose to obey the one true and living God! While the evil ruler of this world promises peace, there is no peace! While he promises benevolence and prosperity, look at your world! Everyone who has preceded you in taking the mark and worshiping the image of the man of sin now suffers with grievous sores. That is your lot if you follow him.

Just as you can't have an anti-gun moral in a story where guns are used to solve all your problems, you can't proclaim God loves you when he's doing his damndest to prove otherwise! It just doesn't work that way!

That Guy does the "Sin separates you from God!" spiel and then quotes Ephesians 2:8-9, which is about how good works won't save you, conveniently leaving off verse 10 which says this:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

Funny how RTCs always seem to forget that little verse, isn't it?

That Guy then does something that makes me headdesk as oppose to grinding my teeth. He actually announces, in front of the anti-Christ himself, where the sacred city is so that Christians might find refuge. Of course, I know nothing will come of this because of the dense plot armor everyone wears but still.

Nicky then rants and raves some more but this snark is raising my blood pressure enough as is, so forgive me if I don't go into detail. For those of you curious, it's basically more Bwaah! Bwaah! talk. The only way Nicky could be more obviously evil would be if his head was spinning around and he was vomiting pea soup.

Nicky then asks this guy Daniel, whom I've completely forgotten about and thus don't care about, to shoot That Guy. Daniel refuses and Nicky shoots him and that's where I'll end the snark. Sorry to be so ranty and not funny but buttons were pushed.

*Another shameless plug: If you don't read the webcomic Something Positive, you really should. Yeah a lot of its humor is Black Humor, but it also manages to be surprisingly touching at times.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Zod-botomy

This snark has been going for about four years, give or take, and I realize that not everyone of my readers can remember all the way back into the single-digit books. So in order to refresh everyone's memories, I'll give a little primer on Tom Fogarty by giving you a sampling of quotes.

For those who remember, Tom was one of the more clear-headed characters. Admittedly, this was probably unintentional given that Ellanjay suck at creating strawmen for their protagonists to knock over, but if you don't believe me, take a look at some of these quotes.

"I was raised in a church where I was taught that God was love, but also that if you died with one sin on your soul, you went to Hell. I couldn't make that compute. I quit the church as soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions. I still carried around in my head the belief that there was a God, but that he was a God of love. Not an angry judge, not a crabby parent. Not someone who would create a person and burn him up later."

Did I not tell you he was one of the more clear-headed characters? Unfortunately, in this week's snark, he will kneel before Zod, say The Prayer, and will promptly lose the shades of gray aspect to his character that makes him so appealing in the first place. But Ellanjay can't abide shades of gray.

Here's another quote, which touches on Theodicy aka Why is there evil in the world if God's supposed to be omnipotent?

"I quit thinking of God as someone who made sense. In fact, I don't know if I believe there is a God at all anymore. How could there be a God, in charge of everything, who would allow the things I've seen? People bludgeoned and mutilated, usually by someone they love and trust. I've seen parents murder their own children, children murder their own parents. I've seen people go through things that no one should ever have to endure. Where is the God in that?"

If you're wondering, Judd's answer to Tom's questions was basically "God left control up to Satan" or as Fred calls it "The Devil Made Me Do It" gospel.

And finally, one last quote from the single-digit books. Sorry to do so much past-quoting but I really liked Tom--not as much as I liked Taylor and Hasina, but still--and I wanted you to see the kind of person, soon to get lobotomized by Zod and become as cold and uncaring as everyone else in this series.

"I'm glad for you that you have something you believe in," Fogarty said. "If it works for you, fine. If it works for Josey, I'll be thrilled. Nobody that wonderful should have to go through what she's going through. It's been a long time since I've seen her come to life the way she did around you kids today. She rarely smiles anymore, but the way you saw her today, that's the way she used to be all the time. But parents aren't supposed to outlive their kids. It's too much to ask of a mother to have her children disappear. And it's happened all over the world. And you want to tell me the loving God of the universe did this on purpose? For what?"

Anyway, what happens in the first part is basically a car chase. Oh and Tom said The Prayer, which once again, I'm not going to bother to quote because it's identical to every other prayer. You gotta note that Tom, even though he had already prayed to God which indicates some belief in him, didn't get the Zod-mark until after he said The Prayer. And Ellanjay wonders why we accuse them of spell-casting!

Next section, we finally cut back to Judd. Judd decides to talk to Chang who's busy directing the mass exodus of believers who had infiltrated Nicky's organization. So it was more than just Our Buck and St. Rayford in the organization? Then why in the name of all that's holy did they not do a damn thing to slow Nicky down? Oh yeah, the gospel according to Ellanjay: Lie back and think of TurboJesus.

The operation is called Operation Eagle based off of a passage in Revelation 12. Let's take a look at their literal translation.

“It comes from a passage in Revelation 12. ‘She was given two wings like those of a great eagle. This allowed her to fly to a place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.’ Tsion believes the woman represents God’s chosen people. The two wings are land and air, and her place is Petra.”
“How long are people supposed to stay there?”
“Dr. Ben-Judah teaches that ‘a time’ is one year, so ‘a time, times, and half a time’ would be three and a half years of protection.”
“And the dragon is Nicolae?”
“Yes, Antichrist.”

Don't Ellanjay believe their reading of the Bible is the most correct one? Then please tell me, why do they take such an approach to Revelation 12? Could it be that maybe they realize that John was speaking in :gasp: :choke: symbols and metaphors? Of course, he probably was referring to Christians being persecuted by Nero and not talking about some indeterminate point in the future, but still. [/cranky English Major/amateur theologian]

Chang is still whining about The Mark and I feel like smacking him. Enough with this emo-shit already! But anyway, back to Vicki.

Vicki and the others are love-bombing Tom, when they receive another email from Claudia asking for help. In a rare show of intelligence, they decide to send a reply to her rather than make face-to-face contact, realizing that it might be an attempt to trap them.

Second chapter is, well, a lot of buildup to what I'm guessing is the infamous pig-riding scene. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to it. It sounds like a goldmine of snark.

Judd meets up with Lionel and Sam. Sam is bringing up meeting places where they can talk about Zod. In the book's own words, some are hidden but some are right out in the open. Picard facepalm Once again, Nicky fails basic villainy.

Judd walk around noting the tacky souvenirs (a detail which actually works) and the Orthodox Jews sneering. Once again, I wonder if Ellanjay have heard of :gasp: Reform Jews or any of the many different sects or do they think of them as a bearded collective, like the Borg except less sci-fi.

Most of the chapter is taken up with a newscast, which I will summarize. They talk about the plane crash and how no bodies were found. They believe the bodies were vaporized. Oh and Fortunado's all itchy. Apparently that's news. There's a new guy in charge of the Morale Monitors who now carry actual guns. And in an attempt to convince me that Nicky really is the most evil person on the planet, they have Lionel say this:

“This guy gets more evil every time I hear him. He’s telling his head guys how to kill anyone who opposes him. He wants people to suffer before they die. And even after they’ve been killed, he wants them beheaded as an example to others.”

So yeah, Lionel, you're shocked, shocked that Satan is using violence to deal with threats to his rule? What did you expect, tea and crumpets?

The next section consists of Darrion, who's also watching the news. According to the news, Pete, aka the guy that surrendered to save the rest of the group, spilled the beans about all sorts of stuff. But Mark's all "He's lying" because everyone knows Torture is Ineffective against Brave RTCs. They also receive another email from Claudia who has gone AWOL and is asking for help. She says she's prayed but she doesn't see the Zod-mark Token Jew mentioned.

And that's where I'll leave you this week. Sorry to have such a long post, but stuff needed to be quoted.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fear is the Heart of Love, So I Never Went Back

There really isn't much going on in Israel. Lionel's just wandering around, thinking about how General Jew's house was burned down. If you're wondering General Jew got the guillotine but since I don't give a rat's ass about him, let's get to the real meat of the story which is on Vicki's end.

First of all, gotta warn you: this snark is going to have lots of quotes, because sometimes it's better to show you the wrongness rather than try to explain it.

First up, we get a rare description of scenery. It's quick, but it's rare that Ellanjay put any description into their work so I'm quoting.

As they drove closer to Josey’s home, Vicki studied the countryside west of Rockford. Some areas still showed the effects of the great earthquake. Trees and grass had been scorched by the plague of fire, and residents had done their best to try and bring back some of the beauty of the city.

This description might work if the Earth had just been hit by one earthquake, but there have been countless strikes by outer space objects and many earthquakes. The world should like the landscape of the book The Lorax by which I mean, the post-Truffala tree landscape. There should be no beauty whatsoever.

So we're finally meeting a character from the single-digit books. Ellanjay once again try to cover their asses by saying Vicki thought of Josey constantly, but this is the first time in a long time that she's been mentioned. But once again, we get some rare description as they describe Josey's appearance.

Vicki recalled first meeting the woman and being blown away by her simple beauty. Though Josey didn’t wear makeup, not even lipstick, her pale blue eyes, sandy blonde hair, trim figure, and huge, easy smile were striking. Now, only three years later, Josey appeared to have aged ten years. Her hair was tinged with gray, her face, cutely freckled before, was wrinkled. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. The woman was still trim, and Vicki couldn’t help thinking she looked gaunt.

Not bad description, save for the "cutely freckled" line. Though Vicki shouldn't be too surprised to see her looking gaunt and old; given the amount of disasters, everyone should look that way. [TANGENT] In fact since Wormwood has rendered all the water undrinkable, bathing and showering should be a thing of the past. Naturally Ellanjay never mention that because they never explore the aftereffects of the disasters they unleash on their characters. [/TANGENT]

Vicki and Josey start talking about Tom. Tom hasn't taken the mark and already I forsee the inevitable conversion, which is a shame: when we meet him later, he proves to be one of the most clear-headed characters in this story. I know that isn't saying much but still.

Tom still works for the GC but hasn't taken the Mark, even though all employees are being pressured to. According to Josey, Tom figured that this Jesus thing was just a phase his wife was going through, not an unreasonable assumption given that in her own words she had been into "crystals, channeling, astrology, and angels. You name it, I’d tried it. I’d hop from one to another as fast as some people switch channels on their TV."

According to Josey, Tom knows Nicky isn't what he claims to be (again, everyone else seems to naturally assume that there's no contradiction in being a warmongering pacifist) and that he'll keep Josey's secret. But as they're talking, Tom shows up.

Vicki lays out Cheryl's story--pregnant, wanting someone to take care of her child--in whole.

Finally, Josey spoke. “I didn’t tell you this, Vicki, but the doctors told me I would never have children again. A few weeks ago Tom and I were talking and I was trying to tell him how good God is, that he wants to help us. Tom brought up Ben and Brad—he always loved them even though they didn’t live with us—and said God was selfish and mean to take them.”

I've got to agree with Tom here. God slaughtered your sons--I'm fairly certain that's the definition of "selfish and mean."

Josey mentions that she had asked Tom repeatedly what it would take to get him to take home a shiny new Jesus today. Turns out his answer was give him a child.

Next chapter, Tom is being a bastion of sanity in this insane universe by continually refusing to take the bait both Vicki and his wife keep offering. Maybe "bastion" is a bit of an overstatement, but I take what precious few crumbs get thrown my way. As you probably guessed, since Ellanjay live in an echo chamber and have no idea what criticism sounds like, Tom's critique is pretty half-hearted.

Tom says he's not going to say what they want him to say just to get a baby out of the deal. Vicki's all "We'd know if you were doing that anyway." Then she says this headdesker of a statement.

Vicki stepped forward. “Mr. Fogarty, the Bible talks about people being blinded to the truth at this time of history. I don’t know how it works, but it’s clear there’s something supernatural going on that keeps people from believing what’s obvious.”

I haven't laughed this hard since Lionel blamed satanic forces for destroying their newspaper. I keep picturing little demons popping in and out of conversations, scrambling peoples' ears so that Jesus's name is never heard.

Tom's response is essentially mine.

“So I’ve been blinded by little demons running around? Or maybe by Satan himself? You expect me to buy that?”

Vicki's like "I'm not asking you to buy anything, just pray to God that he take the blinders off." And Tom decides to pray to God that he show him where he's wrong and what he needs to do about it.

Tom's partner shows up. After he leaves, Tom is all dejected because he lied to his partner and violated his trust. Yes, it really is as HO Yay rich as it sounds.

This bizarre "Lying is always wrong!" shtick makes me think of Buck trying to weasel his way out of Egypt because even though he's dealing with a Satanic NWO that's supposed to be a thousand times worse than Hitler or Pol Pot, apparently lying to them, even in order to save lives, is still wrong.

Tom told his partner that he was concerned about his wife and came home to check on her. His plan was to talk Josey into taking the Mark, but it's becoming clear to him that strategy isn't going to work.

So Vicki decides to pull up Token Jew's website and try to walk him through the old testament.

“I understand what you’re saying,” Tom said when Vicki was through. “I understood it when Josey explained it a long time ago. I’m just not sure I can believe in something just because it gets me to heaven. I don’t want to face any more of the judgments you talk about, but I don’t want you to scare me into a decision.”

Again, I commend Tom for refusing to give in. As 1 John 4:18 says

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Ellanjay's God is basically all about fear. In their eyes, the scriptures can be summed up as "Say the prayer or Daddy God will have no choice but to send you to burn forever."

Vicki's response:

“The point isn’t escaping judgments or not getting stung by some evil creature, it’s choosing to follow the true God. You have to decide whether you’re going to follow the one who gave his life to save you, or the one who threatens to cut off your head if you don’t follow him.”

Vicki neglects to mention that the "one who gave his life to save you" is also the "one who will torture you for all eternity unless you say The Prayer." I know y'all are sick and tired of the abusive father/spouse analogy but it's apt, dammit! Apt!

But in the midst of all this scripture reading, the GC come a knockin'. Apparently they're dragging every officer off to be marked. Tom tries to stall them by playing the "I have a sick wife and I want to take care of her" card but in a rare show of intelligence/cold-heartedness, the GC aren't buying this and the chapter ends with them saying "You've gotta go now!"

And that's it for this week. Thought about throwing in a third chapter in honor of Mother's Day but decided against it. In keeping with my recent trend of recommending entertainment, if you haven't seen The Wind Rises, go see it. The world will be a sadder place when Hayao Miyazaki is gone.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Those Cartoonishly Eeevil Muslims

So Judd and Lionel are riding with Sabir and though I hoped it would turn out that Sabir was a Palestinian Christian, turns out I was wrong. The book doesn't flat-out say it but judging by the backstory they give him, it's safe to assume that Sabir was one of those inscrutable muslimy Muslims.

But before we delve into Sabir's backstory, here's his parody of Z-Van's song. Weird Al, he ain't.

Hey, Carpathia, you’re not the risen king;
Hey, Carpathia, you don’t rule anything.
We’ll worship God until we die
And fight against you, Nicolae.
Hey, Carpathia, you’re not the risen king.

We also get this meditative passage from Judd. Given that it's rare that Judd demonstrates any kind of interior life, I feel a need to quote part of it.

As Sabir sang again, Judd thought about some of his old high school friends and how they had laughed together at television programs and movies. With the death and destruction in the world, that carefree spirit was gone. In fact, Judd couldn’t remember when he had laughed this hard. It wasn’t the humor in the words, but the tone of Sabir’s voice, his perfect imitation of Leon Fortunato, and the way he waved his arm over the steering wheel like he was leading a thousand-voice choir.

One of Judd’s favorite phrases, that always angered his father, was “Lighten up!” Judd recalled times when his father’s business wasn’t going well and his dad appeared weighed down with responsibilities. Now, Judd felt that same weight. He knew there would be a time when he could laugh freely again, and this brief chuckle was a taste of what was to come.

It's not great writing but given how rarely we get insight into Judd's thoughts, I'll allow it.

But anyway, back to Sabir's story.

Before becoming a believer, Sabir was, in his own words, a terrorist, who believed that God wanted him to kill as many Israelis as possible. The text doesn't go so far as to actually say that he was a Muslim, though it's clearly on the tip of their tongues. I kind of wonder why they wouldn't flat-out say he was a Muslim. Given that people of their politics love to opine on the evils committed in the name of Allah (while ignoring the evils committed in the name of Jesus), you'd think they'd leap at a chance to proclaim the wrongness of Islam. In short, WTF, Ellanjay? Being all coy about whether Sabir was a Muslim* doesn't make it more palatable to the readers; it makes it more confusing. I'd rather they just say it, then tiptoe around it. I like my bigotry open and honest, rather than using all these dog whistles. [/rant]

Sabir made bombs and helped plan suicide bombings. One of the suicide bombers was his own son and if you guessed that there's no sense of guilt for his son and all the people he led to their deaths (who are now in Hell for all eternity), you're clearly familiar with Ellanjay's tropes.

But with the help of his faithful wife and a vision from God himself, Sabir soon realized that he was following the wrong God of Abraham and with the help of a man named Ezra (whose family was killed in an attack planned by Sabir), he converts. Now I'll admit, that the whole thing with Ezra forgiving Sabir for killing his family was touching but it's spoiled by the fact that Ellanjay may talk a good game about forgiveness but they sure as heck don't follow it. Somehow they don't see the conflict between their TurboJesus and the Jesus of the Bible who prayed, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do."

Meanwhile, Vicki has been brainstorming, trying to think of a good family to place Cheryl's baby with, when suddenly she remembers Josey Fogarty. For those of you wondering, who the hell is that, Josie was the wife of a cop named Tom and before she converted, she was into new age sort of stuff.

Next chapter, we're finally in Jerusalem. Judd calls Chang, who tells him what aunursa told me last week about the crash being a ruse. Also the tribbles have constructed a remote airstrip and refueling center under the GC's noses right in the Negev desert. Chang mentions them airlifting people to Petra, which I know is in Jordan. Fred's already gone on and on about how the people of Jordan (along with the other countries Israel's swallowed up) have disappeared so I won't get into that.

Vicki is traveling back to Colin's hideout, thinking about the note Claudia gave her. She writes a response to it, before receiving a phone call from Darrion. Bad news, Tom Fogarty is working for the GC. But those of you with good memories will recall that Tom is basically a good person, rejecting this whole "God's killing people in order to try to get your attention" spiel that Judd tried to sell him, but according to Ellanjay, you can't be good without God. I suspect it'll turn out that Tom will either convert or have been converted by Judd.

The chapter ends with Judd meeting up with Mr. Stein again.

I'll throw in a third chapter because all it that happens is talk. Vicki's trying to find out more about Tom Fogarty, y'know whether he can be trusted or not. Mr. Stein says this headdesker of a statement.

“First, we have to remember the truth about our enemy,” Mr. Stein said. “Satan is much more powerful than any human, but he is still a created being. He will deceive many in the coming days and even scare people into following him, but we must remember that our God is still in control. He will only allow this pretender to continue his charade for a limited time.”

Again, when you think about it, God is responsible for all the evil in this universe. He is letting Satan do all this and killing all these people for shits and giggles essentially. Okay, they claim it's to get people's attention but y'know what might work better. Rearranging the clouds or the stars to say "Tim LaHaye was right about everything and you should buy all his books."

“How are the Orthodox Jews and the Christ followers getting along?” Judd said.
“We are unified in our stand against Carpathia,” Mr. Stein said. “On spiritual matters we are far apart. But I am trusting in the God who is able to open blind eyes. We pray they will see that Jesus is truly their Messiah.”

Mr. Stein is basically praying that the Jews (Ellanjay seems to see them all as a collective like the Borg. Apparently there's no schisms or different sects whatsoever) stop being so inscrutable and Jewish. Given that God is basically doing all these disasters for the same reason...Basically God is Torquemada trying to exterminate convert the brutes!

Sam runs into this guy, I'm not sure if he's appeared before in either series, named Daniel Yossef (another Jewy McJew name). Sam tries to convert Daniel to the one true faith, but Daniel's all "If what you say is going to happen, happens, then I'll convert."

Oh and we get a brief mention of Sam's father. For those of you who don't recall, Sam's dad was with the GC and died a horrible unconverted death, which means he's in Hell. Naturally the thought doesn't cross Sam's mind.

Sam sighed. “Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had tried to explain my faith in some other way. I picture my father and I telling others the truth about God, speaking to anyone who will listen. But that is only a dream.” Sam put a hand on Lionel’s shoulder.

“Reality is that I now have a heavenly Father and brothers and sisters in the faith who care about me.”

The chapter ends with Vicki talking with Josey, who says she'd love to meet up with them, and that's where I'll leave you.

*In Sabir's story, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre comes up. I wonder how Ellanjay would react if they knew that the keys to this most holy of sanctuaries, lies in the hands of one of those eeeevil unwashed Muslims. Here's Fred's post on it.