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 pig-riding...it 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.