Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Girl Who Went Away

Okay, I admit, I'm not entirely looking forward to going another round with Ellanjay, but at the same time, I do want to kind of see this to the bitter end. I'm not sure what this says about me from a psychological standpoint, but hey.

So when we last left off, God Burninated UR peasants and Vicki found out that Cheryl has taken her baby, Ryan Victor, and disappeared.

Like I've said before, right now, I'm totally on Cheryl's side in this argument. Vicki basically made the whole arrangement to have the Fogartys adopt and raise her child, while Cheryl was pregnant, and all this was done with very little input from the baby's mother. So yeah, while I know eventually Cheryl (thanks to reading the wiki and knowledge of Ellanjay tropes) will eventually be shamed into accepting that the Main Character knows best and she should just give over her child without complaint, I'm again on Cheryl's side. Because as many Pro-Choicers will tell you, adoption isn't the magical cure-all the Anti-Choice crowd makes it out to be.

Seriously, why exactly does Ellanjay and others of their ilk find the idea of consent so hard to grasp? But you know, Ellanjay just long for the era depicted in The Girls Who Went Away where a pregnant teenager was sent away from her family to a church-run home where she'd spend months being shamed for the horrific crime of having sex and effectively be forced to by the crippling mores of society and her parents, give up her child, after which she'd be returned home and expected to spend the rest of her life pretending that those nine months didn't happen. Did I mention that during this era, birth control was all but impossible to get even for married couples (nevermind horny teenagers) and at the same time, most of these teenage parents were so ignorant of sex that it wasn't uncommon for them to go into the delivery room not knowing where the baby was going to come out? Also, while the teenage girl's life was effectively over as she knew it, the boy who impregnated her got away scot-free and faced no consequences whatsoever. [/long feminist rant]

Okay, for those of you who have issues with feminism, first of all, what are you doing in the Slacktiverse, and second of all, gotta warn you that I'm not afraid to dish out the feminist diatribes if needed. I will swear, however, that I'll try to keep them to a minimum because I want my snarks to be funny, not an endless series of harangues.

That aside, on with the story.

There really isn't much to snark in the first section. It's told from Vicki's perspective as she and the others are like, "Oh noes! Ryan Victor and to a lesser extent, Cheryl, is gone!"

For some reason, the next section cuts to Judd. Don't ask me why. Given that Vicki right now has the dramatically compelling story, while Judd's section consists of him dicking around and watching the news, I wonder that as well. Do they think their readers suffer from some form of severe memory loss and that they'll forget about Judd if they're not reminded of his existence? That would make some sense, given Judd's status as a mini-Rayford, but at the same time, I do wonder if sexism is involved as well. [feminist rant] After all, one of the things anyone who writes children and young adult lit finds out is that while girls can and will read books featuring protagonists of either gender, thanks to social conditioning, boys are conditioned to see books featuring female characters or written by female authors as girl books and won't read them. Even if said book clearly is about a male protagonist, frequently a female author has to choose a male or otherwise gender-neutral pen name if they want their books to sell well. That's why the Harry Potter series was published under the name J.K. Rowling as opposed to the author's actual name, which is Joanne. [/feminist rant]

Though in all honesty, it might not just be sexism. After all, Lionel has virtually disappeared as well. For all I know, he could have just landed on Mars since he hasn't been seen or mentioned in God-knows-how-many chapters.

Anyway, while I know Judd is nowhere near as loathsome a character as St. Rayford or Our Buck, nor does he come close to matching the apocalyptic-level awfulness of Paul Stepola (seriously, I admire your courage, RubyTea), I do feel a need to post a quote, just in case some of my readers question my hatred of Judd.

On a gentle slope nearby, a student lay in the shade holding a book, his head propped up on a backpack. He sat up when the water boiled. Suddenly, as trees caught fire and smoke rose, the boy grabbed his backpack and stood.
“Get out of there,” Judd whispered to himself.
The boy ran but made the mistake of rushing toward the sunlight. Like a vampire caught in daylight, the boy turned, shielded his face from the hot rays, and fell. First his backpack, then the boy’s clothes caught on fire. Finally, he became part of the burning landscape, with trees, bushes, and even the grass igniting.
Judd clicked to one of his favorite sites, which showed famous beaches. The only cameras operating were those where the sun hadn’t yet risen, but reports stated the blood was boiling in rivers around the globe. Everywhere the sun reached, people, animals, plant life, buildings, cars, bridges, and homes were affected. The world had become the wick of a candle that was quickly burning up, and Judd wondered how many could survive another year before the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ.

O the sufferings of Judd! Truly there can be no greater agony than the one suffered by someone who has to hear the agonized screams of the dying! I mean, at first it's a little amusing but after awhile, it gets terribly old. Is it so much to ask that they at least scream on key.

Anyway that little interruption out of the way, back to Vicki.

Vicki's and the others are getting stuff together, ready to go after Cheryl. Cheryl, in a rare show of intelligence, used Josey Fogarty's email account to send some emails claiming that Ryan Victor is sick and they're sending Cheryl with him to get help. Like I said, I know eventually Cheryl will be shamed for having the audacity to want to be a mother to her child, but right now, I'm totally on her side. I'd make up a "Team Cheryl" t-shirt but given the fate that probably awaits her, I'll probably eventually stop liking her. Besides, as always, Taylor and Hasina are way more awesome and I will insist to my dying day that they didn't die; they escaped into a better-written series.

Again, the book cuts back to Judd because Ellanjay were afraid that their male readers' penises might shrivel if they lingered to long on a female character. As though they read my thoughts and my criticism of how Lionel hasn't been mentioned, let alone appeared, for several chapters, they throw in a mention of him.

Sam goes to Judd and is like "So how's Lionel?" Judd says he's about as well as can be expected. If you're wondering though, given the briefness of this message, I'm starting to wonder if Lionel is basically Judd's Tyler Durden, though now that I think about it, Harvey might more accurately describe Lionel's character. Both he and his mother, Lucinda, serve a similar purpose: proving that their white protagonist is a Nice Guy who is totally enlightened and down with people, yo, because he has a Black friend.
I may be exaggerating for comedic effect, but something tells me I'm not too far off the mark.

Anyway, Judd and Sam talk about the latest Act of God. If you guessed they talk rather dispassionately about everyone being horribly horribly burned, congratulations on once again being familiar with Ellanjay tropes.

Judd, being the kind of guy he is, is more concerned about how this will effect his ability to get laid. And I have to fight the urge to repost a link to that website about "Nice Guys" because even though Judd is probably a textbook example of a "Nice Guy," I'm trying not to repeat myself too much.

Anyway, there is this weird little mention towards the end where Judd's like "Okay if everything's exploding because of the heat and whatnot, how are believers getting around?" Yeah, since I've beaten this joke thoroughly into the ground, I'm just going to say that there's a reason I will always picture Judd as Rhett Van Der Graaf from that one episode of King of the Hill.

According to Sam, somehow Zod knows which vehicles and whatnot belong to RTCs and which belong to Heathens. Don't believe me? Here's the quote from the eBook.

“I don’t know how God’s doing it, but it seems like the vehicles believers use are immune to the heat. Just like the clothes we wear and our shoes. The same with the hideouts of believers and the supplies.”

I suppose if I were to ask Ellanjay, point blank, how God can be certain of the religious status of the vehicle's owner, they'd respond with the whole "Because he's God. He's all-knowing and all-seeing" or something like that. But I admit, I was somewhat amused for a moment, wondering if you could escape having your car burninated simply by covering the back bumper with Jesus Fish or with those obnoxious bumper stickers that say "In Case of Rapture This Car will Be Unmanned." Personally, if I was God and somehow this whole Rapture thing had to go forward as planned, I would rapture everyone except anyone who has one of those bumper stickers on the back of their car, just to screw with them. Because if you're driving home and you see a car with one of those bumper stickers, you can safely assume you're sharing the road with an asshole until proven otherwise.

I also spent some time wondering if God figures out whether to burninate or not to burninate by looking at the registration in the glove box or not (because the driver could have helped themselves to their RTC neighbor's Porsche in the aftermath of the Rapture or any number of Acts of God) but I have a feeling that Ellanjay would just say, "Because God that's why!" if I was to bring this up.

Anyway, I thought of throwing in another chapter this week, thus breaking the "One Chapter Snark" trend I've got going, because there was so little happening in this week's selection, but I previewed my post and it looks hella long. So sorry, but you'll just have to make do. At least this horrible month is drawing to an end. Don't know why March decided to be the month in which everything happens this year. Maybe March was jealous of the years-long hatred I've honed for February and decided it wanted a piece of the action. Or maybe I should stop assuming that social constructs, which months are, have actual feelings/personalities. Anyway, have fun taking apart my snark, fellow readers and see you next week!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

God's Burninating UR Peasants!

Okay, first off, an announcement. Like I said last week, family issues have come up, so after this week, it'll probably be a couple weeks before I post another snark. I apologize but it's one of those things that just can't be helped. Wish I could give a definite time as to when I'll start posting again, but right now, I'm not sure. I just hope this snark will tide you over until then.

First off, for those of you somewhat curious as to, "Okay just what disasters are supposed to go down during the Tribulation," well here's an infographic of the entire timeline. Make of it what you will. Frankly it didn't help me much. Were it not for the fact that thanks in part to hucksters like Hagee, LaHaye, and Lindsay, millions of people actually believe this shit is going to go down exactly how the infographic lays it out, I'd assume whoever put this together was a schizophrenic patient with computer skills trying to make sense of a particularly bizarre dream. It does confirm that "the waters turning to blood" disaster does happen more than once, because apparently it takes several tries for the Almighty Creator of the Universe to pull this off.

Anyway, let's get on with it. Pick your poison of choice and eighties montage music of choice to get you pumped up and get to it.

As we've been hacking our way through this series, we've learned many surprising lessons. Such as apparently the Jewish people, far from being divided up into many different sects each with their own beliefs and interpretations regarding their scriptures, they're actually a collective similar to the Borg from Star Trek, except with beards. It's gotten to the point that whenever I read about a character identifying another character as being Jewish, I assume it's because the other character is wearing a Kippah, sporting sidelocks, eating a bagel, and shouting, "Oy vey!" at various intervals. Because that's what all Jews do, aside from spending all their time sitting around denying Jesus is the Messiah. Again, I don't know if Jewish Fiction is a thing the way Christian Fiction is (and we all know how universally awful most Christian fiction is), but I keep waiting for someone to publish Jewish fiction where all the Christian characters have names like Christian McLoveJesus and their lives revolve around doing non-Jewish practices like not circumcising their boys. I'm a firm believer in Turnabout is Fair Play.

Anyway, what we learn this week is that while it is wrong for Nicky to be all gleeful and happy when his enemies die horribly in nuclear fire, it's perfectly okay and just for Christians to celebrate when their enemies die horribly. I mean, love your enemies? What kind of Islamo-Commie-Fascist philosopher bullshit is that?

The chapter begins with, well, it's mostly just Chang talking to Judd over the phone. Chang is all excited about this disaster and because Ellanjay believe in padding almost as much as they believe in Telling, rather than Showing what's happening, basically Chang gives us a rundown on the SHIT WE ALREADY WITNESSED IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER!

Like I said before, high on my list of "Stuff that Makes Me Question the Existence of a Loving God" is the fact that both LaHaye and Jenkins are disgustingly rich despite showing absolutely no skill or any desire to improve said skill at all. I'm not sure where this goes on my list, but it's probably up there with the whole "Fred Phelps made it to his eighties, while Jim Henson, who by all accounts was a sweet man who loved entertaining people, died in his fifties."

Chang talks about watching Rasha (aka the redshirt who died in the previous snark) burn up along with anyone who tried to help her. He mentions that while she was a Carpathia follower, she had expressed interest in RTCism. But Chang is like, "Oh well she had the Mark so she was doomed anyway," and if you guessed he says this casually, as though he were talking about stubbing his toe, rather than a thinking, feeling human who's going to suffer for all eternity, give yourself a pat on the back and take several swigs of whatever booze you choose. I have a feeling you're going to need it this week.

Here's a sampling of the awfulness of this first section. You should know by now I'm a firm believer in "Misery Loves Company." Sometimes the only way you can endure pain is by spreading it around.

“It was awful,” Chang said. “A woman was walking her dog below us. She let go of the animal and tried to get inside a car, but she burned her hands on the door handles. The dog ran in a circle, trying to find some shade or relief from the heat, but it finally turned into a dog torch.”

Judd shuddered. “And the same thing happened to people?”

“They fell out of their cars. Tires exploded. I saw windshields melt. My boss ordered everyone into the basement.”

I have to admit that while many might see me getting upset over the dog as being really callous, especially since all these people are dying horribly and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Ellanjay are probably the type who say that animals don't have souls (so therefore, they aren't burning for all eternity like their owners). But it is still damn upsetting. If I bend my mind and pretend I'm a sociopath (much like the writers of these books and the characters in these books), I can almost justify Zod burninating the peasants, but is there a reason Ellanjay felt a need to drag animals into this? As if it isn't bad enough they're all probably either dead or will soon be dead as a result of poisoned water, you have to burn them alive? Seriously, WTF, Ellanjay!?

I am, of course, thinking of the much better written "Children of the Goats" series by ako on Right Behind. I know, given how much time has passed, that chances are ako has died in some kind of freak accident so we'll likely never get any more new installments, but I felt I should throw in some kind of palate cleanser for my poor, suffering readers.

I suppose if I was in a mood to be charitable, I could try to interpret the callousness of the characters as being similar to Tim O'Brien's characters in The Things They Carried in which the soldiers try to cope with their pain and suffering by using callous language to refer to someone dying like saying "they were offed" or "zapped while zipping." But thing is, O'Brien had shown how the soldiers were suffering both physically and emotionally and that this callous attitude was all a front to keep from falling to pieces.

Judd and Chang talk some more about the disaster, but eventually Judd hangs up and goes to Token Jew's website. And if you guessed he was all callous about it, give yourself more points. Said points are redeemable for a No-Prize of your choice.

My dear friends in Christ, I want you to know that we have reached another terrible milestone. For those of you in the former USA and other places where the sun is yet to rise, the deadly fourth Bowl Judgment has struck, as prophesied in the Bible, and every time zone in the world will be affected.

Here in Petra, by ten in the morning, people out in the sun without the seal of God were burned alive. This may seem an unparalleled opportunity to plead once again for the souls of men and women, because millions will lose loved ones. But the Scriptures also indicate that this may come so late in the hearts of the undecided that they will have already been hardened.

Is it weird that the part of this that I'm most confused about is the time zone factor? Token Jew uses the Book of Revelation as his source for the whole "Burninating the Peasants" plague, but I find myself wondering whether the attributed author, John, knew that the world was round. I suppose it's possible given that the Ancient Greeks had managed to figure out the Earth was round and one of them, Eratosthenes, managed to calculate Earth's circumference. From what I read, Eratosthenes, was off a little in his calculations but still managed to come pretty damn close, which is an amazing feat given that he didn't have much tech with which to do his calculations.

This makes me think of Roger Ebert's delightfully scathing review of End of Days, aka that movie where Arnold faces off against Satan. I'll provide a quote for those too lazy to click on the link.

Movies like this are particularly vulnerable to logic, and "End of Days'' even has a little fun trying to sort out the reasoning behind the satanic timetable. When Jericho has the Millennium Eve timetable explained to him, including the requirement that the Prince of Darkness do his dirty deed precisely between 11 p.m. and midnight, he asks the very question I was asking myself: "Eastern Standard Time?'' The answer, Jericho is told, is that the exact timing was meticulously worked out centuries ago by the Gregorian monks, and indeed their work on this project included, as a bonus spinoff, the invention of the Gregorian calendar.

Let's see. Rome is seven hours ahead of New York. In other words, those clever monks said, "The baby will be conceived between 6 and 7 a.m. on Jan. 1, Rome time, but that will be between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. in a city that does not yet exist, on a continent we have no knowledge of, assuming the world is round, and there are different times in different places as it revolves around the sun, which of course it would be a heresy to suggest.'' With headaches like this, no wonder they invented Gregorian chants to take the load off.

For a brief instant, Judd is somewhat horrified, but after reading the verse which is from Revelation 16, specifically verses eight through nine, he abandons that line of thought and goes back to thinking about how this will affect his ability to get laid before God takes away sex for everyone get back together with Vicki. He wonders if the Sun plague, which has been shown making cars explode, will affect RTC cars as well and the section ends with him deciding to call St. Rayford and see if he could help. Even though, I'm fairly certain planes aren't immune from exploding, but still.

After this, we cut back to Vicki and once again, Ellanjay try to pull off an Author's Saving Throw. Vicki is tired and frustrated because of the Cheryl issue, but there's also dissension in the ranks.

But Vicki had to admit that Cheryl wasn’t the only reason she was losing sleep. Members of the Young Tribulation Force had grown frustrated. Some wanted to take more chances to find people without the mark of Carpathia. Mark had talked about leaving the group and traveling, but Zeke had convinced him to stay.

Once again, kids are made out to be worse than Hitler for the crime of being kids. As many will tell you, people under high-stress situations like, say, the Apocalypse, don't always behave at their best. They often make stupid/rash decisions because they're tired and hungry and can't think straight, they fight and squabble for stupid reasons. After five years, Vicki should be used to this kind of shit by now, used to people being volatile and on edge.

Tanya's upset by all this fighting as well. Vicki tries to comfort her by talking about how God never said things would be easy for you, even after becoming a Believer. Tanya, in a rare human response, is like "If God loves us, why won't he solve our problems?" I was expecting Vicki to give some canned response to the issue, but for once, the writers let her actually respond in a human way.

Vicki couldn’t think of a Bible passage that addressed the subject, and she had to admit she felt the same way. She wanted God to fix things. The world’s troubles had united the kids for a time, but each day brought new struggles.

Something moved outside the cabin, and Vicki sat up. The moon shone through the curtains, casting an eerie glow. She strained to hear, but all was quiet.

If you guessed this moment doesn't last long, you guessed right. In the next paragraph, Vicki decides that if God brings Judd back to her, she could handle any problem.

After this, we cut back to Judd. The bulk of his section is taken up with his phone call to St. Rayford because that's what kids are into these days, Exciting!Phone!Action! I suppose I could make some tasteless joke about Ellanjay's hard-on for phones, but I won't. I just assume that portable phones or cell phones becoming ubiquitous was a high-water mark in their lives because no longer did they have to worry about the length of a phone cord while indulging their phone lust. They could hear that dial tone wherever they went. Yeah, I apologize for putting that visual in your heads, but if it's any consolation, it's in mine, and you know I believe in spreading pain around.

Anyway, Judd asks about how the Sun Plague will affect Believers. Rayford says that while the RTCs do feel a little warm, they aren't burning up in a ball of hellfire like those heathen unbelievers.

Judd gives Rayford his location and asks if said plague will affect planes. Rayford says he doesn't think the heat would affect the planes but cautions Judd saying don't get too excited about getting back to your designated love interest because the authors might still decide to pad things even more that they don't know how long this plague will last.

“I hope so. You have to understand we have no idea how long this will last. It could be a few hours, a few days, or weeks. Tsion cautioned that God has never been predictable with these plagues. We know the order they come in, and we used to think that when one ended the next one began. Now we know they can overlap. Tsion just doesn’t want to see us caught in the open when the thing ends.”

Uh, actually isn't the whole point of this series is that the End of the World is entirely predictable?! Don't you all have charts and graphs showing exactly when all these plagues will happen in the seven-year timeline? I thought the whole point of Ellanjay's thesis was that the truth was plain as the nose on your face and the only reason people don't immediately recognize their cobbled together interpretation of scripture, was because they hate God or something along those lines.

Also, the idea of overlap is a foreign one to them, the idea that one disaster could pave the way for another? Like with the Haiti Earthquake, the destroyed infrastructure inadvertently led to a Cholera outbreak and between those two factors (the destroyed infrastructure and the Cholera), a helluva a lot of people died. This is a foreign concept to them?!

I know I've made the joke before, but I'm starting to think that the Left Behind series was the favorite reading material of the Bush II administration. Certainly explain the clusterfuck that was their response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush II probably just assumed, "Oh it's just a hurricane. Surely those plucky people will be back to normal within days."

Ellanjay make an another attempt to convince us that "The world has really gone to Hell and people are totes suffering!" but like all their Saving Throws, it doesn't work because they just have the characters tell us instead of showing us the appalling misery. Words of advice to aspiring writers, if you want to show the progression of events from A to Q, you actually have to show us all the steps in between. Shouting "Q!" and hoping no one notices doesn't work!

Rayford gives an anecdote about the adventures of two evangelists in Germany. I'm going to assume this is yet another scrap thrown in for those who read the adult books, but since I don't really care, I'm going to fast-forward through it. The RTCs preached, they were ratted out, but Zod sent angels to save them.

Judd talks about how he's kind of given up on reaching the Undecided, but Rayford says this:

“This is the greatest rescue mission the earth has ever known. On the video reports about the wrath of the Lamb earthquake, people dug through collapsed buildings for days, even weeks, looking for just one survivor. In one hospital, they found a baby alive fifteen days after the earthquake. I like to think our mission is the same. We have to keep digging, keep praying, keep hoping that we’ll find someone who’s ready to hear the message.”

By people, I'm assuming Rayford is referring to those hardened reprobates aka the GC because I sure as hell haven't seen or heard of any of the Tribbles doing anything except reading their emails/talking on the phone. I could also point out that even if you hadn't rescued that baby, it would have been bamfed into Heaven and been spared more suffering on Earth, so why aren't you getting abortions and killing small children right and left? After all, if the kids get past the "You must be this short to be Raptured" line, they might :gasp: :choke: fall away and wind up damned for all eternity.

Reminds me of all the idiots who called Hurricane Katrina, God's punishment for aborting babies. My response is that God was so angry over people surgically aborting unborn life that he unleashed a disaster that probably killed many babies, unborn and otherwise, slowly from dehydration as they desperately awaited rescue. I know I've repeated variations on this point a lot, but shit needs to be repeated, lest we forget.

Rayford talks about how this could reach those on the fence about God and we get this head-bangingly infuriating conversation.

“People have lost faith in the GC and its leaders. If there’s anyone out there without Carpathia’s mark, and we can get to them, I have to believe they’ll choose the light instead of darkness. They’re going to be suffering as the sun rises every day.”

Judd paused. “But hasn’t Dr. Ben-Judah said God is actually showing mercy with these judgments?”

“I asked him about that, and he still thinks the fact that more plagues are coming means God still wants people to repent. Most won’t and will curse God, but Tsion supports our efforts to find the remaining undecided.”

“Then I want to be part of it. And I’ll bet there’s a bunch of people in Wisconsin who would too and some here in Ohio.”

Rayford is like "Have you forgotten the sacred ethos of Doing Nothing?" "Let's see what tomorrow brings." The section wraps up with him telling Judd that he could get him to Vicki in a few days. As always, assuming the writers don't decide they always wanted a solid gold Humvee and decide to pad out the series further.

The chapter ends with Vicki waking up to Josey Fogarty shrieking about how Ryan Victor is gone. Cheryl has taken him, stolen a van, and left. As said before, my sympathies in this conflict are entirely with Cheryl, but this snark is getting hella long and I'm getting a headache. So again, another one chapter snark. I'm not going to say that they're definitely going to be a thing here on out until we get to the part where TurboJesus slaughters everyone, but it's leaning towards that. It's just that my snarking skills have improved to the point where I can find so much material in one chapter.

Anyway, sorry for the upcoming delay. Hope this snark wasn't a complete waste of time and gives you stuff to chew over until I get back to this.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nothing to Envy

Okay, first off, gotta make an announcement. For some reason this year, everything's decided to happen in March. Or in other words, I'm dealing with family-related issues. I'll try to post a new snark when I can, but if I fall behind, try to understand.

Almost as though they read my post last week, during which I spent most of my time trying to make sense of the screwed-up time scale in this series, Ellanjay attempt to clear up my confusion with the opening paragraph.

THE COLD season had ended, and spring had come for Judd and the others hidden in Ohio. Judd flipped through a computer calendar and noticed the anniversary of the disappearances was only a day away. Even though it had been five years since his family had vanished, Judd felt the same ache as the first moment he walked into his house and realized they were gone and never coming back.

It's your call on how well they did. I suppose I could look up the whole Pre-millennial Dispensationalist charts about when various plagues happen over the years and compare it to the progression of Cheryl's pregnancy, but honestly that sounds like too much work. Already devote enough neuron space to this series and its screwed-up mythos as is. If someone less lazy wants to take a stab at it, they're welcome to try. Though I must confess: I thought six years had passed by this point, not just five.

Judd decides to take out his notebook (which hasn't been mentioned until now) and look at the stuff he's praying for and see how God's answering his prayers. The first one on the list is Get to Wisconsin so Vicki and I can shag like mangy alley cats in heat before God takes away sex for everyone. Obviously that prayer hasn't come to pass, but it's the next one on the list that makes me go, "Huh?"

Shelly and Conrad. There had been some misunderstanding in Wisconsin, and the two had gone from being best friends to enemies. Judd continued to ask God to give them a spirit of peace in the midst of turmoil.

And here's where I must put in another record scratch sound effect. Because since when have Shelly and Conrad started fighting? According to the eBook, we're 65% of the way in and this is the first time those characters have been mentioned, even though as I recall, they're with Vicki and we've had several segments from her perspective. You'd think that if Shelly and Conrad were fighting that would affect the morale of whatever hideout Vicki's in and she would mention it. :headdesk: The last time I recall Shelly and Conrad being mentioned was in a whole other book when Vicki mentioned that they had developed feelings (of love, not hate) for each other. Since we hadn't actually seen those two interact with each other in any meaningful way, it came across every bit as inexplicable as their sudden hatred for each other does now.

Judd also continues to pray for Nicky's downfall, even though he knows Nicky is doomed. And as though anticipating my numerous complaints about how Nicky's regime doesn't sound quite that bad (especially when taken into account that God's the one inflicting most of the suffering in this series)Ellanjay put in this paragraph:

With hundreds of thousands dying because of the lack of drinkable water, that prayer was being answered every day. It seemed even those who followed Nicolae now realized they had been fooled by a cruel dictator who cared about no one but himself. As much as Carpathia, Leon Fortunato, and other GC authorities said it, the world wasn’t getting better. Machines, computers, and people were wearing down. Services such as trash pickup and street cleaning were cut off. Roads fell into disrepair, and cities filled with crime.

If you guessed, even before I posted this paragraph, that rather than show us the amount of suffering going on, show us all the people starving and dying while Nicky's living it up, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay's tropes. I don't know what Show did to them when they were kids but given a choice between Show and Tell, they choose Tell every time. They also always choose an approach that makes them sound remarkably callous; rather than dwell on the human suffering, they focus on issues related to inanimate machines.

Plus even so, it doesn't sound quite that bad. As many will point out, given that the Tribbles still have cell and Internet service, that means some of the infrastructure is still standing after several back to back Acts of God, despite all of Ellanjay's efforts to say, "No we really mean it! They really are suffering!"

Also, as many will point out, the hundred of thousands of dying (and of course, the way it's mentioned in passing cheeses me off) probably consist mostly of the weakest members of society or those on the lowest rungs of society. I imagine lots of children are dying (remember, abortions are wrong, but letting them die horribly from poisoned water is A-Okay). I imagine if I were to ask Ellanjay, they'd say the dying children won't be pitched into the fires of Hell, because of their whole shtick regarding the Age of Accountability which is that God will try you as an adult as soon as you start to get hair around your pubes. I can go into a long screaming rant about it, but I've done it before and I try not to repeat myself if I can.

Obviously, the poor are all going to die, given that they lack the means to stockpile massive amounts of canned food and bottled water needed to survive this disaster. Oh and say goodbye to all plant and animal life because, yeah, with all the water being undrinkable, they're toast. And the elderly are kind of in the same boat as kids except that they don't get a free pass, no matter how addled they may be as a result of Dementia or who knows what else.

I imagine the GC and the higher-ups in the party are doing fairly well, though, and if this issue were delved into, it would really drive home just how evil they are, feasting while the majority starves.

In fact, in order to better demonstrate how badly Ellanjay fail in this section, I'm going to post a link. For those too lazy to click, said link is an excerpt from Barbara Demick's book on North Korea, Nothing to Envy. It's on my list of nonfiction to recommend to everyone because not only do you get insight into a closed-off country and the suffering its citizens endure, the information provides good fodder for anybody who wants to write post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, because North Korea is essentially living it. The country has basically been in a constant state of famine and teetering on the brink since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here's a sampling of the kind of suffering they're going through:

It has been said that people reared in Communist countries cannot fend for themselves because they expect the government to take care of them. This was not true of many of the victims of the North Korean famine. People did not go passively to their deaths. When the public distribution system was cut off, they were forced to tap their deepest wells of creativity to feed themselves. They devised traps out of buckets and string to catch small animals in the field, draped nets over their balconies to snare sparrows. They stripped the sweet inner bark of pine trees to grind into a fine powder that could be used in place of flour. They pounded acorns into a gelatinous paste that could be moulded into cubes that practically melted in your mouth.

North Koreans learnt to swallow their pride and hold their noses. They picked kernels of undigested corn out of the excrement of farm animals. Shipyard workers developed a technique by which they scraped the bottoms of the cargo holds where food had been stored, then spread the ­foul-smelling gunk on the pavement to dry so that they could collect from it tiny grains of uncooked rice and other edibles. On the beaches, people dug out shellfish from the sand and filled buckets with seaweed. When the authorities in 1995 erected fences along the beach (ostensibly to keep out spies, but more likely to prevent people from catching fish the state companies wanted to control), people went out to the unguarded cliffs over the sea and with long rakes tied together hoisted up seaweed.

If this passage wasn't horrible enough, I'll add a few factoids to make it worse. By all accounts, while this famine was raging, Kim Jong-Il was a huge foodie with very expensive tastes, having stuff like caviar flown in from around the world, while his subjects starved.

That's another thing that Ellanjay skim over in their series: people do not go meekly to their demise. It's called the Will to Survive and pretty much every species on Earth has it in some form. No matter how bad things get, people will fight and do whatever they can to stay alive.

But anyway, I've talked enough about North Korea and how if Ellanjay had done an ounce of research, they could have written a good story. Let's move onto the next item on Judd's list, which is Chang.

Judd is naturally worried about Chang seeing as he's in New Babylon playing double agent. Once again, Ellanjay attempt an Author's Saving Throw and you guessed it, it rings false.

Chang reported that the place had become a ghost town. Citizens no longer came to admire the sparkling buildings because the world was a mess. Half the population alive at the time of the Rapture had now died. Carpathia often called for the execution of leaders around the world who he thought weren’t loyal enough, and Judd prayed that Chang would remain safe.

Sorry to keep going back to North Korea, but that country provides such a good example as to how Ellanjay fail at creating a believable dystopia. The mention of New Babylon as a ghost town made me think of Pyongyang. For those who don't know, Pyongyang is the official capitol of North Korea and exists primarily to be a playground for the elite of North Korea. It is basically a showcase city and if you ever go there, basically you'll be escorted by a pair of hand-picked toadies at all times and everyone you run into will tell you how great is to be North Korean. Pyongyang manages to look good on the outside, but once there, it usually doesn't take long before you start noticing the Stepford-like atmosphere of the place, how empty the streets are of both people and vehicles and all unfinished buildings in this so-called showcase city.

Again, like I've said so many times (and will definitely say again), Ellanjay miss an opportunity to really show how evil the GC are. They could show Nicky and his elite eating and living quite comfortably while the masses suffer and die not too far away. Of course, if they did that, then the readers might start asking unpleasant questions like, "Why aren't the Tribbles sharing their food and water with those less fortunate given that they have the means to?" and we can't have anything that would reflect badly on our brave RTC heroes.


Judd wept at scenes of unmarked people in a remote Philippine village being lured with the promise of water. Though the Global Community News Network didn’t show it, Judd knew the same thing that happened near Petra had probably happened to these unfortunate people.

Yes, those poor unfortunate people, WHO WOULD HAVE DIED ANYWAYS BECAUSE THE WATER'S FUCKING POISON NOW! But seriously, if only there was some help for them, maybe in the form of a group that has numerous resources and means of relaying food and supplies to those in need and isn't afraid to stand up to a corrupt government. But since that doesn't exist in this series, let's move on.

Judd also prays for Token Jew, who in the kind of compassionate response we've come to expect from our godly protagonists, mentions this in his latest email.

It is not as if the God of gods could not defeat any foe he chooses, Dr. Ben-Judah wrote, but the stench of the other side evangelizing for evil has offended him and kindled his wrath. Yet the wrath of God remains balanced by his great mercy and love. There has been not one report of death or injury to any of the 144,000 evangelists God has raised up to spread the truth about his Son.

"But there have been reports of plenty of horrific deaths among the poor, especially among children, because remember, Jesus loves the little children."

Can't help but think that Ellanjay got the wrong interpretation of that classic Bible verse "Suffer the Little Children."

Judd, recognizing the central tenet of RTCism (Everyone recognizes the inherent greatness of St. Rayford and Our Buck, regardless of if they actually do anything or even disappear for books at a time), prays for St. Rayford, Our Buck, Chloe, and her kid. He also, surprisingly enough, prays for Foreign McForeign (Jacques Madeleine, who he hung out with in France) and Westin Jakes. Given that neither character had appeared onscreen in forever, I'm surprised that Judd even remembers their existence, but you've seen by now how much Ellanjay love having characters be forgotten and disappear for chapters at a time, only to come back at some later date.

He also prays for Lionel, who has the nerve to still be suffering trauma from his missing arm. It's becoming very clear to me: I think we can officially name Lionel as the newly appointed Butt Monkey of the LB-verse, given that the previous title-holders (Ryan and Hattie) are both dead at this point.

Judd then lists a bunch of names of other Tribbles whom I don't care about, before finally he prays for Vicki. And tell me that his prayers for her aren't mostly centered around his desire to get laid. I know I keep joking about it, but they just make it so damn easy given that RTCs are so repressed that even Dr. Freud would be like, "Now that's messed up."

Finally, Judd prayed for Vicki. He asked God to draw her close and make her an even stronger believer than she already was. Judd thanked God for Vicki’s friendship, her support, and for the life she had brought to him, even separated by the miles.

Of course, since I'm a proud pervert, part of me wonders if this constant emphasis on Vicki isn't just a desperate attempt to convince us that our manly RTC hero is totally on the straight and narrow and definitely isn't gay, despite showing considerably more chemistry with male characters than he ever did with his designated love interest.

After all this praying, Judd opens an email from Sam telling him to watch the news. Judd turns on the news and watches a broadcast which tells us that Nicky has very evilly managed to turn the poisoned sea water back to normal, thus possibly saving the lives of the animals that live there. No doubt next on his list of evil deeds is he, using the resources and tech at his disposal, will find a way to remove the salt from the sea water (yeah, it's a bit of a reach but is that tech any more out there than some of the stuff in the LB-verse) and put in place the necessary network to ensure that everyone gets clean, drinkable water no matter where they live, thus SPARING THEM THE HORRIBLE PAINFUL DEATH THEIR LOVING GOD HAD INTENDED FOR THEM!

The broadcast ends with Nicky expressing the hope that fresh-water places, lakes and rivers and the like, will soon be restored, but weeks go by and apparently Zod has decided to let them remain poisoned and full of blood.

After all this, we finally cut to Vicki. Vicki, being all womanly and female, has spent most of her time wringing her hands and wishing for Judd and, to a lesser extent, Lionel to come. Apparently the United States has become the most unhealthiest place on Earth to live and I could go into a long rant about how poorer countries like Haiti and Bangladesh, whose citizens lack the means to stockpile supplies, are probably doing worse, but yeah, I'm getting a little repetitive on that point. Anyway, she wishes she and Judd had gone to France, but I fail to see how things would be so much better in France than everywhere else.

She also expresses a desire to go to Petra and that part makes sense. While as I've pointed out, Petra is currently a theocratic dictatorship under the rule of Token Jew, it's supposed to be a city of refuge. As shown before, the poisoned water plague hasn't touched them and quail and manna rain from the sky so nobody's starving. Granted because there hasn't been any mention of God bamfing down some citrus trees, they're probably all suffering massively from Scurvy and who knows what other vitamin deficiencies, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.

Apparently in the LB-verse, where space is warped and time is bendable, baby Ryan Victor (I use first and middle to distinguish him from the late butt monkey of the same name) is now a toddler. I suppose it is possible there could have been a four month time jump from last week's chapter (where he was clearly mentioned as being 8 months old), but seriously, Ellanjay would it have been so much to ask that you do some research into child/infant development and keep a consistent time frame? Oh yeah, any effort is too much effort as far as Ellanjay are concerned.

Anyway, everybody's concerned because Cheryl aka Ryan Victor's mother, has been acting more and more unstable. One of the YTF, Mark, overheard Cheryl telling the baby that she was his real mother and that the Fogartys were only looking after him for a bit and that as soon as she found a place for both of them, she'd take him from them.

:grits teeth: Since I cheated and read ahead on the wiki, I knew this plotline was coming up and oh, boy. If you want me to sum it up, right now, I'm totally on Cheryl's side. Why? Because as I recall, Vicki basically arranged for the Fogartys to adopt Cheryl's baby during the pregnancy, WITH VERY LITTLE INPUT FROM CHERYL EVEN THOUGH SHE'S THE ONE WHO'S PREGNANT!

I suppose since Ellanjay's sympathies lie with the Christian Right (and we all know how they feel about abortion), they're doing this plotline as a means of educating young girls to put their babies up for adoption rather than abort them. As many in the pro-choice camp will point out, Adoption isn't the magical cure-all it's made out to be.

:massages temples: Never ceases to amaze me, how Ellanjay and others of their ilk find the idea of consent so hard to grasp.

Anyway, the Fogartys, alarmed by Cheryl's behavior, want to ban her from seeing her baby, because that's the truly compassionate thing to do, ban a mother from seeing her child. Vicki makes token protests to this idea, saying that banning her from seeing her child could make Cheryl even worse, but eventually concedes and goes along with it.

Surprise, surprise, this "banning Cheryl from seeing her child" plan doesn't work. In fact, Cheryl becomes even more belligerent, shrieking and crying, frequently showing up at the Fogartys demanding to see her child. The YTF decide the best course of action is to either move Cheryl or move the Fogartys.

Vicki decides to talk to Cheryl. She reminds Cheryl that she agreed to give her baby to the Fogartys. But Cheryl, continuing to earn my sympathies, is basically like "I've changed my mind and STFU and don't come back until you bring me my baby."

Next is a brief interlude with Sam. Nicky, in a true stroke of malice, decides to tap into the spring that provides clean water for Petra. Wanting his subjects not to die from drinking poisoned water?! Again, Nicky's evil knows no bounds!

If you guessed that Nicky's evil plan to provide fresh drinking water to those without fails due to a literal Deus ex Machina, congratulations for once again being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. I wish there were any perks that came with it, even a lousy t-shirt would be nice, but there aren't.

After this, we hear from Chang. Since this snark is getting hella long (and yes, it will be another one chapter snark this week), I'm going to fast-forward through it. Apparently another judgment, the fourth bowl judgment according to Chang, happens. I suppose if I really cared, I could track down one of those PMD charts laying out all the judgments and whatnot, but dammit! I have enough worthless information clogging up valuable neuron space! Like I will go to my grave incapable of doing Algebra (despite studying it in Middle School, High School, and two semesters of College), but I will be capable of humming the Dragon Dagger theme from Power Rangers. I don't need to add to it, especially since this judgment will probably, like all the previous ones, effect only NPCs and even then, will only be briefly touched upon.

Anyway, what happens is some kind of massive heat wave. Somehow that leads to the window at the building where Chang works, exploding and we get this.

It was too late for Rasha and Lars. The window in front of them gave way, sending shards of glass flying about the room. Both were struck by the broken glass and crumpled to the floor as others screamed. Hot, steamy air blew into the room. A woman tried to help her fallen friends, but her hair curled, then burst into flames from the heat.

I suppose I should applaud Ellanjay for bothering to give names to a few of the rank-and-file employees who were killed. That gives a little pathos to the scene, but given that this is the first time Rasha and Lars have been mentioned (unless this Lars is the same documentary film-maker/propagandist mentioned in another book)...yeah, it doesn't add much by way of pathos. Compare this to the scene in the Watchmen comic where, after having met several of the civilian characters and gotten to know them in previous issues, we watch them die horribly at the hands of the bad guy. Granted, when it comes to writing, comparing Alan Moore to Ellanjay is probably like comparing the collected works of Wordsworth to a dirty limerick some idiot scrawled on a bathroom stall, but still.


Anyway, the chapter ends with Chang calling Judd and telling him all about the latest disaster. If you guessed that Chang is oblivious to the suffering of others, give yourself a hand. He mostly spins this as, "While this will be a disaster for Unbelievers, it'll enable Believers to move more easily."

So it ends on a hopeful note with Judd excited by the prospect of finally getting laid finally getting back together with Vicki. That is, unless the writers need more of an excuse to pad out the series, in which case Judd will have to settle for becoming more acquainted with Rosie Palm and her five sisters. Even more so than he already is. :eyebrow waggle: