Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blast their Hopes and Blight their Lives!

Like I mentioned last week, what we have to look forward to this week, is basically like I said a spin-the-wheels action scene put in, probably to both pad out the series so the writers can become even more disgustingly rich, and to again, convince us that the heroes really are being heroic and martyrrific and suffering at the End of the World. Of course, it would work a lot better if the heroes actually did anything besides talk and if they actually showed any ounce of horror or compassion at the scene before them, but yeah...As said before, by both Fred and I, Ellanjay are basically Jonah in that they preach the gospel, not because they genuinely want people to become Christians and turn from their wicked ways and whatnot, but because they want to get to witness the brutes get exterminated firsthand. As horrible as this outlook is, it does work out well for them, allowing them to indulge their natural sloth (the sin, not the tree-dwelling creature) while making huge amounts of money, which appeals to their greed. Plus, if they put forth the effort, showed just how horrible the Apocalypse would be, and had every character suffering massively from PTSD, the readers may start asking all the wrong questions, which would lead to problems.

Anyway, if I'm fast-forwarding or summarizing a lot, it's because all they do is talk. :whimpers: Basically Westin is their pilot and is flying them to San Diego. And I still don't know why Judd and Vicki are going to San Diego or what they're going to do in San Diego or what they hope to accomplish there. That's some fantastic writing there.

I reread the last page of the previous chapter, hoping for some clues, but I am still confused. Apparently there's this group that has holed up in a library and requested help from the Tribbles, but the adult Tribbles don't know where they are. There's some mention about how Judd had stayed with them in the past, but in all honesty, the only thought in my head regarding all this is, "Huh?" That and "I should care, why?!" Once again, I'm wondering if the version I got is missing pages or something.

Anyway, like I said, all they do is talk, Westin saying he's sorry to hear about Lionel's arm and all that. The only real notable part is when Westin starts talking about Z-Van. As many will recall, I have certain affection for Z-Van, given that he's one of the few who calls the Tribbles on their bullshit, which is always a good thing in my book. Plus, given the way they talk about him...never fails to amuse me, how no matter how much they try to convince us that they're totally down with people and have their fingers on the pulse of today's youth, they always remain several decades behind. They probably still preach about how eeeevil Alice Cooper is, despite the fact that Alice Cooper is a golf-playing, Republican-voting, born-again Christian. Like I said, there's a reason I picture Z-Van as looking like Madonna Dahmer.

Anyway, the extent of the conversation is that Z-Van was doing a concert when God decided to kill everybody with the sun. And if you guessed that Westin talks dispassionately reports on what happens like he just witnessed someone stub their toe, rather than a MASSIVE CROWD OF PEOPLE BURN ALIVE! Again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay. And because I believe in spreading pain around, I'm going to post a snippet of the conversation:

“One of those miracle workers came onstage and tried to calm the crowd. He was wearing a long, black robe and had a lapel microphone on. The speakers started crackling and popping like something was wrong with the lines, but when I looked closer, it was the miracle guy with flames licking at his outfit. He ran screaming to the back with the rest of the band members.”

“You think Z-Van survived?” Judd said.

“The GC hasn’t said he’s dead, but they also didn’t report anything about the concert. There must have been thousands on the ground, their bodies just piles of ashes. The stage, lights, all their instruments—everything went up in smoke.”

As they flew, Westin told them the other things he had experienced while flying for the Co-op. Judd was amazed at all God had accomplished through this man he and Lionel had reached out to.

It's times like this, I think of the Book of Job. The belief of many scholars now is that Job wasn't an actual person, but that the whole book is an allegorical tale, an ancient writer's attempt to try to solve the problem has vexed and probably will continue to vex religion throughout history: the problem known as Theodicy. You can argue about whether the writer succeeded in his goals, but whether he did or not, at least he shows more compassion to the very real suffering Job is going through.

Whereas, yeah, Ellanjay would be perfectly cast as any of Job's three friends: Bildad, Eliphaz, or Zophar. Remember they believe that the book should be entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Bad People Who Deserve It." You also wonder just how well Tim LaHaye does as a preacher, given that a large part of the job involves comforting people going through bad times. Especially since he probably disagrees with that irritating verse about how it rains on the just and unjust alike.

For them, God is their personal holy concierge/strongman and if anything bad happens to you for any reason, they'd probably expect you to look inward and see if it's the result of some sin you haven't properly confessed or atoned for.

Anyway, as a palate cleanser, here's a link to ako's Children of the Goats. Still saddens me that the story will never be continued or finished, but what can you do? Unless you know ako's address and where I can get Chloroform on the cheap. ;)

Anyway they talk some more and Westin hands Judd the note sent by the San Diego group. I'd talk about the note, but the contents do nothing to alleviate my confusion. The group says something about how Judd helped them in the past and told them to contact them if they were in any danger. While I suppose if I were to reread the series, I could figure out when exactly Judd was in San Diego and who the hell he helped, but I'm lazy and I already have entirely too much brain space devoted to this series. Besides, all the endless travelogues have proved over and over again that no matter where you take Judd, even if it's to some of the most holy sites in Christendom, he will pass by them without seeing or feeling anything worth noting. It doesn't matter if he's finds himself in a 7-11 or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

:sighs: I know people (myself included) label Ellanjay as hacks, but I'm starting to feel that's unfair to hacks. While hacks may only possess rudimentary knowledge of the craft, that's still more than Ellanjay. More and more, I keep wishing Dan Brown was writing this series. Yeah, it would still suck and have all the problems inherent in Dan Brown's writings, but at least there would be a sense of fun to the whole affair. Plus, even he'd know there are times when the he flings the characters from one exotic locale to another, that he needs to pause and let the readers see what the characters are seeing.

Judd's section ends and we hear from Judd-with-Boobs aka Vicki. Vicki, being the compassionate RTC she is, looks out the window at the ruined landscape at all the burned-up buildings/vehicles. In addition to all this, apparently thanks to the Wrath of the Lamb quake (aka that disaster that happened in one of the earlier books, but I'm too lazy to look up exactly when), has caused massive flooding and destroyed many coastal cities.

I could point out how Vicki is, like a true RTC, focusing solely on the destruction of property, but that's not entirely accurate. At the end of the paragraph, it says she feels really bad for the Followers of Carpathia. Not bad enough to do anything besides wring her hands and think nice thoughts and certainly not bad enough not to think of how this sun plague makes it so much easier for RTCs to travel, but it's something. I'd make a remark about Vicki being a sociopathic asshole, but like I've said in other peoples' snarks, the word "asshole" feels piddling and inadequate when it comes to characters like these. An asshole is someone who keys your car because he/she can't stand you driving a nicer car than him/her. A character from this series, they're the type who would drop a nuke on your car, if they saw you driving a nicer car than them. After which, they'd smile and laugh as everyone is either vaporized or dies slowly from radiation poisoning.

On a semi-related note, here's a link There really aren't enough trigger warnings in the world for that horrifying clip. But the real horrifying part is that for all their chest-pounding and bluster about how we should nuke Iran/anyone who looks at us funny, they would be horribly offended if you actually showed the consequences of their actions. I mean, all those kids getting vaporized and dying with their guts hanging out? It really hurts their delicate sensibilities.

I'm starting to think in addition to a previous idea I had, about how we should publish leather-bound editions of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, we should also make syrupy inspirational posters, only rather than putting the "Footprints" poem, we put in a selection from Mark Twain's The War Prayer.

This get-rich-quick scheme might actually be more practical than my previous selection, because unlike Atlas Shrugged, The War Prayer is probably in the public domain, so I wouldn't have to worry about Copyright Infringement.

I know, I'm being too damn wordy/ranty about a chapter in which nothing happens, but it's my blog, so I'll rant if I want to! Besides, I feel another quote is needed.

“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

As they land and get out of the plane, Vicki notices an eerie silence, the only sound being the cackles of flames (and probably the shrieks of the dying, but Ellanjay forget that detail). It's only a cursory mention and yes, I do wish they'd go into this further, but it's one of the few details that actually works in this chapter. Because one of the things people who have toured Ghost Towns talk about is the unnerving silences of those places, the kind of silence you can only get when there are no people or working machines around for miles.

They find a bus for handicapped/disabled children that hasn't been burned up and decide to use it to get to the library. I've wondered in previous posts how Zod knows which vehicles/buildings belong to RTCs and therefore, he shouldn't burninate them. I wondered if you could escape the burninating by plastering your bumper with Jesus fish or if God checks the registration in the glove box, before sending down hellfire, but at the same time, how does he know that the owner didn't just help himself to an RTC's Porsche following the Rapture or the umpteenth Wrath-of-God plague? As stupid as it sounds, at least, regarding the people, I somewhat understand, what with this whole Zodmark, Nicky-Mark business but still.

I could also point out that said bus probably belongs to one of those eeevil secular public schools, further making me question why it didn't burn up.

Anyway, they finally get to the library and meet up with people. If you thought that would clear things up, think again. Ellanjay stubbornly refuse to give the names of the people seeking the Tribbles' help.

The Nameless San Diego Believers (I really need to come up with a shorter name for them.) talk about how GC officers and ordinary citizens have taken refuge on some of the lower levels. And if you guessed that the Believers have stubbornly refused to go and witness to the citizens in hopes of possibly saving their souls, again, congratulations. Because like I said, there's really no reason for them to hesitate. Death is win-win all around for RTCs in this series. They know heaven is real and that if they die, they will get to spend the Apocalypse bathing in the light of the undying lands, while everyone else suffers. Plus in dying as martyrs at the hands of the GC, they get perks that other believers don't.

In addition to wondering why they don't just preach in front of the GC every chance they can, I sometimes wonder why RTCs don't just say The Prayer, ask God for forgiveness, then shoot themselves, so as to get this all over with. After all, if pressed, most RTCs will admit that they believe that no sign, not even suicide, separates a person from God, so long as they confess it before God and ask for forgiveness.

So they load up the bus with all the RTCs, but just as they're getting the last one on board, one of them, given the sole descriptor of a woman in her forties, refuses to get on board, saying that her son Howard isn't there. Apparently Howard was some guy who Judd argued with the last time they met, but like I said, I'm too lazy to go to the trouble of digging through all the past books to figure out when. If anyone else wants to, be my guest, but I've devoted too much neuron space to this series as is.

Judd, in a rare show of compassion, promises the woman that he and Vicki will go looking for her son, telling Westin to take off if they haven't returned in an hour. One of the Nameless gives Judd the keys to his Volkswagen Beetle. So for all you naysayers like me, who keep ranting about how all the suffering is off-stage and that the Apocalypse seems no more worse than stubbing your toe, fear not. Judd and Vicki are suffering, what with being forced to drive around in an old hippie car. Again there can be no greater suffering as the opening paragraph of the next chapter shows:

THE CAR sputtered and coughed when Judd turned the key. The Volkswagen wasn’t just old—it was ancient, with rust spots on the body, balding tires, and an inch of dust. Vicki coughed as she jumped in the passenger seat. Judd tried to start the engine again, but it wheezed and shook.

If you're wondering, I'm not breaking my one-chapter-snark trend this week; I just put in that paragraph because I felt you should know just how awful Judd and Vicki have it, being forced to ride around a burning hellscape in an old, broken-down car favored by dirty hippies, as opposed to Buck's Top of the Line gas-guzzling penis-extender Range Rover.

And that's it. Again, I really thought this would be the week I'd break the one-chapter-snark thing I've had going, but I had more to say than I thought. Again, I wonder if this is a case of the books just keep getting worse and worse or if this is a case that my snark skills have improved to the point where I can make good hay out of just one chapter. It may be one of those questions we'll never know the answer to.


aunursa said...

Buck and Chloe relocate to San Diego with some of the other Tribbles near the end of Book #10. Outside their new hiding place, Chloe is captured by the GC at the beginning of Book #11.

Anonymous said...

"and if anything bad happens to you for any reason, they'd probably expect you to look inward and see if it's the result of some sin you haven't properly confessed or atoned for."

Something very like this is a big part of both $cientology and Objectivism. Part of me thinks that these are much the same thing as many of the right-wing versions of Christianity, just in different manifestations.

Firedrake said...

The Just World fallacy is popular because it's reassuring: things happens for reasons. You got cancer because you weren't right with God and/or because it's part of God's plan to make you a better person, not simply because of a bad roll of the dice. Conspiracy theories (which have a lot of overlap with RTC thinking) work in a similar way: someone as significant as JFK shouldn't be killed by a random nobody, there should be reasons.

As for hacks, to be fair, L&J do have the knack of writing what their primary audience wants to read. The book sales and profits suggest that they're getting that right. A less hateful book probably wouldn't have sold as well.

The targeting model I'd use assumes I have real-time tracking of all RTCs. So if there's an RTC in the vehicle, hold off the burnination until that's no longer the case.

I believe the only unforgivable sin is meant to be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, though that's not clearly defined.

aunursa: see, that's what happens when women are allowed to leave the house.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just wanted to note that I wrote this, off Glorious Appearing:

I hope you like it.

spiritplumber said...

I commend you for not going for the easy short bus joke.