Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rare Moments of Effort

The chapter begins with everyone's favorite: travel logistics. Yeah, nothing more exciting that reading about where the characters are going to go, especially since given that Ellanjay never bother to give any kind of description to the places they go or anything like that. It's basically like reading directions off of MapQuest. As a result, I find myself asking questions I really shouldn't ask. Like does Jenkins read directions off of MapQuest the way others read erotica? Does he has his wife imitate a dial tone when they're in bed together? And by extension, does Our Buck and Chloe do that as foreplay as well? I'm picking on Jenkins here because, as Fred has pointed out, he does the lion's-share of writing for this series and a lot of the same tropes (obsession with travel logistics/phones) show up in other works of his.

Yeah, I know, I really shouldn't put those visuals in your head, but I'm trying to be entertaining and there really isn't anything to talk about in the first section.

Well, okay besides the travel logistics, there is this headslapper of a statement:

The Walterboro group gathered round them after dark, put their hands on Judd and Lionel, and prayed for their safety. Though they hadn’t stayed long, Judd felt like they were part of his family. They had risked their lives, and Judd was emotional as the believers huddled around them.

Yeah, Judd feels so close to the Walterboro group that he doesn't bother to give any names or descriptions, instead choosing to refer to them as a collective. But then again, the Walterboro group seems to recognize that they're NPCs and therefore, must remain part of the background, whereas Judd and Lionel, as main characters, must be kissed up to. Not as much as St. Rayford and Our Buck are in the adult books, but still.

Also, the sentence "Judd was emotional"...really, that's got to be the laziest writing thus far. You couldn't even bother to say "he felt sad" or "comforted" or anything? It took me less than thirty seconds to think of those alternatives and I didn't even use a thesaurus. I'm sure many of my faithful readers will point out more examples of lazy writing in the LB-verse, but right now, this is the most glaring example for me.

But anyway, there's more talk about logistics and Exciting!Email!Action, but eventually Carl shows up and we hear about how the saga of Tom and Luke (aka the guys burning down bounty hunters' houses) turned out.

As you probably guessed, given the kind of Scream morality this series operates under, Tom and Luke are dead, killed by the GC, supposedly for their terrorist activities but a more likely reason is because they violated the Tribbles' sacred ethos of doing nothing and did something, and for that they had to pay.

If you're wondering, Judd hears about the deaths on the news, and while they make token mention of Judd feeling sad...yeah, doesn't really work, given that all the characters come across as puppets created by aliens with only an imperfect knowledge of how humans work.

Judd went back to the computer and sat, numb from the news. After a brief memorial service for Luke and Tom, Judd wrote Vicki: I can’t help thinking they wasted their lives trying to stop the bounty hunters. They could have done so much more for the cause. I don’t want that to happen to us.

Uh, yeah, need I remind Judd that Tom and Luke had said The Prayer? Therefore, according to the rules of the LB-verse, immediately after they died, they were bamfed into Heaven and therefore, while you get to spend the next few years suffering from whatever freakish supernatural event Zod's got coming down the pipe, Tom and Luke get to spend their time bathing in the light of Iluvatar or sipping Mai Tais on a beach or whatever Ellanjay think people do in Heaven. In this book, if you're Saved, dying costs you absolutely nothing, which begs the question as to why the Tribbles aren't witnessing to the Unmarked until the GC drag them to the guillotine or committing terrorist activities right and left in an attempt to slow Nicky's regime down a little? As bad as Judd's attitude towards the Power Couple of Awesome was, it was somewhat understandable in that neither Taylor nor Hasina were among the Saved. But this? No, flat-out no...

The section cuts to Vicki, who in true girly fashion, isn't really doing much except keeping track of Judd's travels and wringing her hands in worry whenever she goes too long without hearing from him. Lesser YA lit has characters like Katniss or Beatrice Prior who actually do stuff, but Ellanjay...yeah. Frankly even Bella Swan does more than Vicki.

If you're wondering how Judd and Lionel are getting around, for once they're actually doing something smart, traveling through the wilderness and completely avoiding roads if they can. Yeah, I know, but like I said, the bar for intelligence is set so low in this verse that I get excited when even toddler-level intellect appears. Judd talks about dogs and how the ones that survived the myriad plagues are even meaner and I headdesk and wonder how exactly did any dogs survive? Remember, all the water's poison now. Remember this, because Ellanjay sure don't.

Judd talks about how the safe house they were headed to has been raided, so it's going to take even longer for Lionel and him to get to Wisconsin, thus allowing Ellanjay more of an excuse to draw out the events of this book further. Padding in an Ellanjay novel?! That's unpossible!

Judd assures Vicki that he's staying safe and she hangs up and gets back to work. In a rare show of humanity, Vicki gets to work, cleaning and fixing up run-down cabins. It's not much, but I do appreciate these little moments because that's what humans do in a crisis: we work. We cook or clean or build or do something in order to keep our anxieties under control. But this rare moment disappears faster than a raindrop in a desert as the paragraph ends with this headdesker of a statement:

She, Charlie, and the others completed the cleaning or construction of a new cabin about every two weeks.

I really question whether they could build a whole cabin in about two weeks. Granted they left out how big said cabins are and how many people, but I really doubt they're just building stripped-down cabins solely for the purpose of providing shelter from the elements. Those of you who read Fred's latest post from the adult series know that Ellanjay wouldn't dream of having any of their characters :gasp: :choke: rough it and survive without electricity. Without electricity, how would they get their all-important emails/phone calls? :faints:

Vicki wonders if she should have just flown to France to be with Judd and I've got to agree that would have been better. They could have flown there from France and moved into Petra together, but that wouldn't pad out the book as much, so yeah. But Vicki realizes if she had, she wouldn't be able to help Cheryl with her pregnancy.

Cheryl is at the halfway point of her pregnancy, making me wonder about the passage of time in this verse. They had mentioned, not too long ago, that she was six months away from giving birth, yet in this very chapter, Cheryl's labor pains begin, making me wonder what the heck is going on? Are Ellanjay aware that human women have a nine-month gestation period and that babies born before 23-24 weeks gestation generally don't make it. Okay, there are exceptions but the reason we remember those is for the same reason we remember the names of people who survive falling out of planes without parachutes: because they're rare.

So yeah, currently suffering hemorrhages trying to work out the time scale in this book. It makes me wonder whether this is worse than Christopher Paolini's Eragon series where a character who was pregnant at the beginning of the first book, finally gives birth in the last book, forcing me to wonder if humans have the same gestation period as elephants in his world, given how much time had passed. If you put my feet to the fire and made me choose, I'd say this is worse because as delusional as Christopher Paolini is, at least he knows he's writing fiction and doesn't believe that the stuff he's writing about will happen at some indeterminate point in the future.

Anyway, Cheryl's been feeling sick to her stomach and as a result, is only able to be up for about a few hours. She has my sympathies but these added details only further confuse the time-scale. I've never been pregnant, only just read about it, but doesn't Morning Sickness usually go away after the first few months? But yeah, right now, Cheryl's the only character ringing true and I do feel sorry for her as she gets all panicky whenever the baby goes too long without moving.

Judd and Lionel, meanwhile, have been :gasp: :choke: experiencing actual suffering. Ever since the raid in Kentucky, they've covered less ground and since they've been unable to shave or shower, they've grown filthy. Granted, like I said, that's fairly mild on the suffering scale, but my standards for this series have basically been knocked to below sea-level. I understand exactly how Nostalgia Critic feels when he goes "Effort! Honest-to-God effort!" and feel like celebrating whenever any form of effort shows up in this series.

In another moment that rings true, Judd and Lionel joke a little about how bad they look before heading on. But before you enjoy this rare moment of realism, let me post a quote that shoots it all to Hell:

Judd had never traveled through this part of the country, except by interstate, and he was surprised at how beautiful the land was. Even with the earthquake and the fires that had consumed grass and trees, he could still see the beauty of God’s creation.

Uh, yeah, like I've said about passages where Ellanjay bother to describe the scenery, THERE SHOULD BE NO BEAUTY LEFT ESPECIALLY SINCE WORMWOOD HAS POISONED ALL THE WATER KILLING OFF ALL PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE!!

Judd and Lionel cross the Ohio River and crash at the cabin of some guy named Eustice Honaker. I don't know why I'm bothering to give you his name, given that he'll probably disappear pretty quickly, but truth be told, the name was just so WTF?! that I felt like it had to be mentioned. Gives you another excuse to play "Guess the Ethnicity" again.

The section cuts back to Vicki. Cheryl's labor pains have began and Vicki is running around trying to keep Cheryl comfortable and trying to find someone who could help. Again, nice bit of semi-realism. It makes sense that Vicki would be freaked out and not know exactly what to do in this situation, especially since she's not an obstetrician or anyone who'd have familiarity with childbirth outside of what she's seen in the movies or read in books.

But they don't dwell on Vicki very long before they end the chapter by focusing on the manly men, Judd and Lionel. Judd and Lionel have left Eustice's cabin behind, confirming my suspicions that there was really no point in learning his name. They climb up on a ridge, but the chapter ends with the rocks sliding down the hill towards Lionel. Those of you who have cheated and browsed Wikipedia (and I have no doubt many of you have) know what will happen to Lionel, so I won't bring it up until it actually does. Suffice to say since Lionel hasn't seen the movie 127 Hours or read the book it's based on, this will all be new to him.

And I know I only did one chapter, but the snark's getting long so I think I'll end it here. I'll probably not post anything next Saturday since I'll be visiting relatives, so you'll have to wait a bit to find out what happens to our heroes. May all my Christian commenters have a Merry Christmas, may all my Jewish commenters have a Happy Hanukah, and my atheist commenters have a Happy Atheist Children Get Presents Day.

7 comments:

aunursa said...

They had mentioned, not too long ago, that she was six months away from giving birth, yet in this very chapter, Cheryl's labor pains begin, making me wonder what the heck is going on?

In the main LB series, the final chapters of Book #6 until two-thirds of the way through Book #10 take place over a period of five weeks. The entire Book #12 takes place over one very long day.

Meanwhile other time periods are simply skipped over entirely.

"Eighteen Months Later

Etcetera.

Mouse said...

Yeah, I know I'm being pedantic by obsessing over the passage of time in the LB-verse, but I do it mostly because Ellanjay haven't given me anything else worth thinking about. If they had put forth the efforts to create memorable characters and a vivid setting, I'd forgive little screw-ups like losing track of how far a pregnancy has advanced. I'd just say, "Yeah, they screwed up but the rest of the story still works," and move on. Lord knows I'm probably in no position to judge because time is difficult to keep track of in a novel, so I've probably made some screw-ups in my currently unpublished YA novel.

Think of it being like the whole giant eagles plot-hole in Lord of the Rings. I've heard some Tolkien nuts try to defend not using the eagles to fly the Fellowship into Mordor, but if you ask me, I think Tolkien was like "Giant eagles! Cool!" and didn't think through how the eagles could be used to solve every problem in the series. But I forgive him anyway because he was such a fantastic world-builder and made Middle Earth feel more real than a lot of places in the real world.

But Ellanjay aren't good at world-building or at creating memorable characters, so I find myself unable to turn away from screw-ups regarding the passage of time, because they've given me nothing else to focus on. To paraphrase Roger Ebert from his review of Firewalker , when something gives you nothing else to think about, you have no choice but to play the "Continuity" game in order to pass the time.

aunursa said...

Don't apologize! I'm a stickler for the consistency of plot elements. Based on clues in the text, I know the time, date, and day of the week that the Rapture happens in Left Behind. And I would point out any time that later events don't follow the timeline.

Firedrake said...

I do picture Buck and Chloe's wedding night involving him saying "could you go into the office and pick up the extension".

Mind you, I read a technothriller a while back where someone takes several pages to drive from deepest Scotland to Fishguard and then across Ireland, with every road noted.

judd: 17:38:20 emotiond exited with SIGSEGV
judd: 17:38:22 using default emotion emulation

The dogs, they live on blood now.

The beauty of God's creation: http://epod.usra.edu/.a/6a0105371bb32c970b017c32ea9d33970b-pi

Now you have me picturing the "127 Hours: But Christian!" book. Our hero starts off by going climbing on a Sunday…

aunursa: thinking you know that is heresy, isn't it? :-)

Quasar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quasar said...

"Does he has his wife imitate a dial tone when they're in bed together?"

The sound of Jerry Jenkins having sex.

And now you will never sleep again.

(EDIT) Erm... prior warning, that link is genuinely, viscerally terrifying. Seriously, I'm not kidding here.

So... trigger warning I guess?

Mouse said...

Quasar, maybe it's because I'm weird but that link didn't scare me. It reminded me of the soundtrack to a hidden object game, a game genre I really like.