For the record, we don't get too far into the Goysplainning this week. That honor is reserved for next week. If aunursa or any of my other Jewish commenters are reading this, understand that I'm not even Jewish yet I cringe at all these scenes as well. At best, Ellanjay are patronizing. At worst, yeah, they keep trying desperately to deny their Anti-Semitism (though there's long tradition of it on the Christian Right), but...I don't need to finish this sentence, do I? Just know that every time I read one of these passages, I just assume that all the Jewish characters who scoff and walk away and stubbornly insist on remaining Jewish...afterwards, they're going out to get royally stinking drunk. Can't really blame them. I don't claim to be an expert on the Jewish calendar but if I had to deal with that kind of patronizing BS, I wouldn't care if Purim wasn't for another few months; I'd be like, "Screw it, I'm celebrating early." Because sometimes in life, you need to drink until you can no longer distinguish between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordecai." Dealing with Token Jew definitely qualifies as one of those times.
The opening section, shock of all shocks, begins with Lionel, who is actually experiencing some PTSD probably due to the loss of his arm and all the other shit he's been through. Okay, I know Firedrake or somebody will criticize me and tell me that this opening is basic, generic stuff that could be applied to any of the characters in the series, but like I keep saying, given how relentlessly awful these books are, every time there's some basic, workmanship-like effort, I leap all over it, like a starving dog on a bone.
LIONEL awoke from another nightmare and wiped sweat from his forehead. On some nights he dreamed about dogs chasing him, barking and biting at something trapped under a rock. Other nights Lionel dreamed of a dragon chasing his friends toward a cliff. At the edge of the cliff was a huge army.
This time he had dreamed of Judd and Vicki being caught by the Global Community. He knew it had something to do with their leaving the day before. Lionel had promised he wouldn’t say anything to Chang or anyone else about their secret departure. Judd had been sure Captain Steele would have stopped them.
Of course, thing to remember when snarking this series is that said basic effort usually has the life span of a duck in a trash compactor. In this case, said effort shows up in the first paragraph, but quickly dies in the second. Because any reader could point out the obvious problem: Why exactly is Lionel so worried about Judd and Vicki getting caught by the GC? One, they've both been caught before and it wasn't too bad, because a global dictatorship run by Satan is surprisingly gentle in its treatment of terrorists, who have made it clear that they intend to overthrow the government. Two, I'm not sure the exact timeframe, but you guys like only have to wait out a few more months before TurboJesus comes and
Seriously, I will continue to wonder why, if the Tribbles aren't going to do anything, whether it's helping those suffering from the latest Wrath of God incident or behaving like a proper resistance group and :gasp: committing acts of resistance against Nicky's tyranny, WHY THE HELL DO THEY BOTHER TO HANG AROUND?! JUST GO TO THE NEAREST GC CENTER AND PREACH ABOUT TURBOJESUS UNTIL THEY HAUL YOU OFF!
Though I suppose if you look at these two paragraphs in terms of Hierarchy, then you might understand Lionel's worries. Because even though Jesus says repeatedly throughout the gospels that the first will be last and the last will be first, Ellanjay can't possibly conceive of a world where everyone stands equally before God and they aren't the big cheeses everyone fawns over. They see it more in the light of George Orwell's Animal Farm, where everyone's equal but some are more equal than others.
So knowing this and knowing that in the LB-verse, St. Rayford and Our Buck outrank everybody, including TurboJesus and Zod, my guess is Lionel's worries for Judd and Vicki aren't so much for their physical safety as for their spiritual safety. For those who don't recall, St. Rayford explicitly said to both Judd and Vicki that he didn't want them in Jerusalem for the big battle and he wouldn't take them there. Yet as soon as he was out of earshot, Judd and Vicki immediately went behind his back and start making plans to get front-row seats to all the smiting. In other words, Judd and Vicki have explicitly defied the word of the most powerful force in the LB-verse.
So you can't blame Lionel for being concerned. Even if you wonder why exactly Lionel feels that his main purpose on this earth is to be a cheerleader for Judd and Vicki. But that again, can be understood via the hierarchy. Judd and Vicki outrank him. As a good RTC, Lionel has internalized the hierarchical structure and knows that it is his duty to worry about the safety of those above him, while knowing that Judd and Vicki will only occasionally give a passing thought to his safety.
Okay, I really didn't intend to spend so much damn time on the first few paragraphs. Like I said, it's like a spigot is turned and stuff just keeps flowing out.
Judd has pulled some strings and gotten Westin to fly him and Vicki out. It does say that Westin is on assignment, doing airlifts for the Tribbles, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that neither Judd nor Vicki nor Westin will face anybody chewing them out for all this. Even though they're a resistance group trying desperately to stay alive under the thumb of a global dictatorship RUN BY SATAN! None of the Tribbles will lay into any of them for wasting fuel and resources just so they can go to Jerusalem and watch shit happen firsthand. Again, there's no reason for Judd and Vicki to be on this trip--they could probably enjoy all the gruesome carnage from the safety of Petra (of course, they'd have cable TV in a long-abandoned fortress in the desert. You expect them to actually suffer at the End of the World?)--and by taking this trip, they're burning through resources that could have been utilized elsewhere.
I suppose it could be possible that Westin's plane could :gasp: run on solar and not need petroleum-based fuel (though do you really think Ellanjay would be so gauche as to use something advocated for by hippies?), but even if that was true...newsflash, humans can't be made to run on air and sunshine. I don't know if any of my readers are aspiring Breatharians but it turns out that the common assumption, that human beings need calories derived from either plants or animals, IS COMPLETELY TRUE! And once Judd and Vicki got safely to Jerusalem, while they can shack up with a resistance group (and do) again, merely being there will force whoever takes them in to scrounge up food for them, during a time when food is in limited supply as is.
So for those going "tl;dr" by taking Judd and Vicki on a little trip to Jerusalem, Westin is costing the Tribbles resources that could have been better utilized elsewhere, either by getting other RTCs out of harm's way and into the safety of Petra or by feeding those not yet Marked either by TurboJesus or Nicky.
:deep breath: Sorry again for lecturing, back to the story.
Lionel looks out a window and goes to the tech center to email someone. Like I said before, because I am something of a Doomsday Preppers buff* (please don't judge me) and because I'm anal retentive and this series hasn't provided me with anything else worth thinking about, every time we come to passages like these, I find myself wondering, "Okay, so do Ellanjay have any idea how exactly the Tribbles are getting cable and Internet along with running water and air and heating and pretty much all the comforts of a five-star hotel in AN ANCIENT FORTRESS IN THE MIDDLE OF A GODDANGED DESERT THAT HAS BEEN USED MOSTLY AS A TOURIST ATTRACTION SINCE IT WAS ABANDONED, CENTURIES AGO!
I know the answer is "Of course not." Ellanjay probably won't mention anything about a solar panel array or wind turbines that are used to power the batteries that provide electricity to the place. They will make no mention of rain catchment systems or greywater recycling or composting toilets or anything like that. I should probably accept that and move on.
But I won't stop wondering if, while all the Tribbles and whatnot are moving in and modifying Petra to suit their expensive, environmentally-destructive needs, if there aren't some scholars in anthropology or ancient civilizations or something, who aren't sobbing as they watch a site of such historical importance get destroyed so some mollycoddled First Worlders won't have to experience any discomfort at the End of the World. Yeah, I know it's the End of the World and Petra will probably be destroyed whether the Tribbles move in or not, but again, THE SCHOLARS WOULDN'T AUTOMATICALLY KNOW ALL THIS!
Oh and I looked up Petra on Wikipedia. Apparently it's in the country of Jordan and as such, it's probably safe to assume, Petra is under their rule. I wonder what the Jordanian government would think if a bunch of foreigners just showed up to one of their major tourism sites and started tearing it up and modifying it so as to suit their expensive needs/tastes.
Lionel talks with a German girl named Steffi. She makes an onscreen appearance later on, but still isn't given a surname, which kind of disappoints me. Call me masochistic, say I'm suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, but I've come to look forward to whenever Ellanjay introduce a foreign (or in other words, someone who isn't White, Christian, and American) character. They have such a tin-ear when it comes to foreign names that it makes you both laugh and cringe at the same time.
Steffi mentions a previously seen German character, Otto Weser, so we know that Ellanjay are willing to give German characters last names, but I'm still disappointed that we don't get Steffi's. As such, I'm throwing it out to the readers, to come up with a last name for Steffi. Remember that Ellanjay have an absolute tin ear when it comes to foreign names and stubbornly refuse to Do the Research. They also can't believe that someone of German birth would have an identity outside of being from Germany, just as a Jewish person has an identity outside of being Jewish. So go nuts and create the most stereotypical German name ever! I'll start: Steffi von Fraulinstein or Steffi von Hitlerella. Steffi von Sauerkrautensteinich.
Lionel gets and reads and email from Vicki. Vicki basically says, "We're safe and off to do some goysplainning to some poor deluded Jews. Convince them to abandon the faith that has sustained them through countless millennias of persecution and all that." And the section, of course, ends with Lionel thinking about how Martyrriffic and Awesome Judd and Vicki are, trying to save souls at the End of the World.
Next section is told from Judd's perspective. He and Vicki are in Jerusalem and proceed to make the acquaintance of that Shivte guy mentioned a chapter ago. No points for guessing which religious tradition Shivte is a follower of. For the record, even though I think Scott Adams's Dilbert comics are totally overrated, I have no problem thinking that Ellanjay probably picture Jewish people as resembling the citizens of Elbonia. Before any of you accuse me of being excessively inflammatory towards Ellanjay, given what you've read from my snarks, can you really say that I'm exaggerating by much? Again, it probably never occurred to them that the Jewish faith has grown and evolved over many centuries and has many different sects that differ in their practices, much like Christianity. In fact like Christianity, they too spend their time reading and discussing their scriptures, wondering how said scriptures can best be interpreted and practiced in the modern world. Not all Jewish people have the long beards and sidelocks and the other accoutrements associated with the Orthodox branches of the faith and they don't all march in lockstep, following the dictates of their SuperPope or Rabbi on high.
Anyway, Shivte is all stubborn and Jewish, saying that he only invited the Tribbles on the advice of his wife (who is an RTC, for those who've forgotten) and he most certainly will not bow and accept the wisdom of those more enlightened by accepting TurboJesus. Again, freely admit to exaggerating for comedic effect, but can you really same I'm exaggerating by much?
Shitve's RTC wife shows up. In the interest of accuracy, I tried the "Search this book" feature on my Kindle edition and I went to the Left Behind Wikia to find out if they ever bother to give Shivte's RTC Wife a name. As of right now, it looks like they didn't. Because giving her a name would imply she has an identity apart from being an RTC Wife who prays for her heathen relatives to accept TurboJesus.
I thought about just calling her Shivte's RTC Wife, because if Ellanjay weren't going to bother to name her, why should I, but I'm lazy and don't want to have to type "Shivte's RTC Wife" for however long she's onscreen. Granted it won't be for long, because as part of the MCC, she'll float into being for a few chapters before disappearing back into the Cloud, but still. So I'm trying to think of a shorthand for her, much in the way I dubbed Tsion ben Judah, Token Jew (because that's the purpose he serves in this series) and Solomon Zimmerman, General Jew, and Zvi Zeidman, ZZ Top. I do this, not out of anti-Semitism, I hope none of my readers feel my posts are insulting or insensitive, but as a means of making fun of Ellanjay's not too latent anti-Semitism. So like I said, trying to think of something to call Shivte's RTC Wife, but I'm not having much luck. The best I've come up with is S-Wife, but I wanted to see what my readers though.
S-Wife talks about how it must be so nice and peaceful at Petra and she wishes she could be there, but she has duties to her family in Jerusalem. Naturally, Shivte is all "Oy Vey, you want to shut up about this Jesus-fellow? You just keep going on and on about him." Again, I'm exaggerating but not by much.
Shitve shuffles off screen, leaving S-Wife alone with Judd. Judd asks "So how did you become a Believer?" thus allowing Ellanjay to use one of their favorite tropes: having an RTC tell all the other RTCs how they came to love
In a rare show of, well, I don't know what to call this, but rather than have S-Wife go on for pages, with Judd or Vicki interjecting every now and then, Ellanjay are oddly expedient when it comes to her conversion story, managing to wrap it up in a few paragraphs.
“How did you become a believer?” Vicki said.
“I didn’t plan on it,” she said. “My husband and sons said they would not take Carpathia’s mark, but we had to have food. So I volunteered to take it so I could buy and sell. The idea of worshiping that statue … well, I couldn’t imagine it, but we had to survive.”
“How close did you come to taking it?” Judd said.
“I was at the Temple Mount, in line. I thought it was the only way to save my family. But then I saw a disturbance and slipped out of line. A man of God was shot— his name was Micah—but the bullets didn’t kill him. After that, I had to know more about this message. I have a young friend, the one who wrote your friend Sam, and he helped me find Tsion Ben-Judah’s Web site.”
“And your husband and sons?” Vicki said.
“We have agreed not to talk about it. They are devout Jews, and they will resist Carpathia to the end, but they are not ready for Messiah. How I pray for them every day that somehow the message will get through.”
My natural cynicism assumes that the reason for this sudden expediency, because why would Ellanjay resist their natural love of padding, is maybe they assume that S-Wife, by virtue of being a girl with girl parts, her story is automatically less interesting and less important that those of the manly men.
And the part of me that indulges in paragraph-long ragedumps typed in Capslock, is like, AND IF SHE HADN'T GOTTEN THE MARK, SHE AND HER FAMILY WOULD HAVE STARVED TO DEATH BECAUSE FEEDING THE HUNGRY IS COMMIE BS THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST! OH AND IF IT WEREN'T FOR THE FORTUITOUS INTERVENTION, SHE WOULD SHARE THE FATE OF JOEL, AKA THAT GUY WHO TOOK THE MARK TO SAVE HIMSELF AND HIS BROTHER FROM STARVING TO DEATH! BECAUSE IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT REASONS YOU HAVE FOR TAKING THE MARK! IN THIS UNIVERSE, GOD CAN BE DEFEATED BY TATTOO INK AND A MICRO-CHIP, SO NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, NO MATTER IF YOU IMMEDIATELY REGRET TAKING THE MARK, YOU'RE FUCKED! ENJOY A NICE ETERNITY GETTING YOUR BALLS ROASTED AND TOASTED BY SATAN!
:deep breath: Okay, I'm done know. Sorry for the tediousness of the ragedump, but like I said before, this series is the written equivalent of The Tingler. The only way to keep it from getting ahold of you and turning your brain into mush, is to scream, to rant and rave about just how awful it is. To quote William Castle:
"I am William Castle, the director of the motion picture you are about to see. I feel obligated to warn you that some of the sensations—some of the physical reactions which the actors on the screen will feel—will also be experienced, for the first time in motion picture history, by certain members of this audience. I say 'certain members' because some people are more sensitive to these mysterious electronic impulses than others. These unfortunate, sensitive people will at times feel a strange, tingling sensation; other people will feel it less strongly. But don't be alarmed—you can protect yourself. At any time you are conscious of a tingling sensation, you may obtain immediate relief by screaming. Don't be embarrassed about opening your mouth and letting rip with all you've got, because the person in the seat right next to you will probably be screaming too. And remember—a scream at the right time may save your life."
Like I said, sound advice, because what's true of The Tingler, is also true of Bad Art. You have a duty to protect yourself and others. So feel free to rant and rave, though understand that in doing so, you will probably alienate yourself even more from the other people in your life. But it's a small price to pay to keep your sanity.
Though at least The Tingler was courteous enough to give us Vincent Price. No matter how awful the movie is, Vincent Price is at least entertaining enough that you feel that your time isn't wasted too much. Vincent Price frequently knew how awful the film he was in and dealt with it by throwing himself into it, embraced the ridiculousness, and in doing so, at least made the film entertaining in its awfulness. But these books...they're a lot like that movie I hate so much in that not only are they bad, they're just so dour and unpleasant to the point where you'd feel better if someone had just beaten you with film reels for two hours or, in the case of this series, if Ellanjay pounded you with the manuscript for a few hours, than you would if you watched that movie** or read this series.
After S-Wife does her little conversion story, we are reintroduced to Jamal and Lina Ameer. For those of you going, "Who the hell is that?" Jamal and Lina Ameer were the parents of Kasim and Nada, aka two characters who died several books ago and haven't been mentioned since. Judd introduces Vicki to them and they coo over what a beautiful couple they are and how happy they are for Judd and blah-blah-blah.
Jamal pulls out a map and shows the system of tunnels dug under their houses that they hide in.
Judd asked if they knew anything about the rebel fighters, and Jamal pulled out a crude map. “There are underground tunnels through here. Many people have hidden in them since the GC took over. We have weapons and ammunition, even some computers to help us track the movement of the GC One World Unity Army’s troops. We can go through there as we head to our apartment. You will stay with us.”
Okay, maybe Jerusalem, given that it's been around since ancient times, already has a network of tunnels in place that somehow haven't been destroyed in the thousands of years of said city's existence, even though Jerusalem has been invaded and conquered so many times, it barely qualifies as news. Fair enough. I'll leave out all my "So how did they dig and excavate said tunnels without attracting the attention of the authorities?" complaints and move on to my "Okay so how are they getting electricity needed to power their computers and how are they getting Internet (of course, they have Internet at the End of the World. Again, you expect them to suffer?) given that all satellites are in the hands of the GC, who could easily track their signals?" complaints.
I know people are tired of me making those complaints, especially since all those complaints can be answered with They Just Didn't Care or Critical Research Failure, to use TV Tropes lingo. But I keep bringing them up, because like I've said before, if they had put forth any effort into any aspect of their storytelling, I'd be willing to let these lapses slide, say "Yeah, they screwed up but their grasp on setting or characterization is awesome!"
I may be a Tolkien buff, but I will concede that Tom Bombadil is a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment and that Tolkien was too hung up on the inherent coolness of Giant Eagles to think through how said eagles could have solved everything in this series. But he did such an awesome job world-building that while I'll admit to his flaws, I still feel that the Lord of the Rings*** series is still worth a reader's time.
Shivte shows up and says that the GC are going house to house so they have to skedaddle to the tunnels. Yes, I did write that as an excuse to use the verb "skedaddle." It's a fun word that you can only find rare occasions where it's appropriate to use it.
Back on topic, I think it's safe to assume that the GC patrols won't be outfitted with search dogs or infra-red goggles or anything that would thwart the Tribbles' amazing "Hide in a Hole in the Ground" strategy.
There's a brief interlude with Lionel. Not much happens. He talks with Steffi (who still isn't given a last name, hint hint to my readers) and receives word that the Euphrates river has dried up just the way Ellanjay's convoluted prophecy said it would. Woo...
The next part is, well, a brief interlude with Vicki. It's like Ellanjay were afraid we'd have forgotten she existed, so they wrote this part from her perspective to remind us, even though they easily could have told it from Judd's perspective, because there's nothing specific to Vicki's character in this passage. But then again, none of the characters in this series have any traits specific to them.
Basically, Judd and Vicki spend the next few weeks studying the system of tunnels beneath Jerusalem. In the big throwdown between TurboJesus and Satan, Judd and Vicki's job will be to supply ammo to defending rebel forces. Okay, I'll assume that said rebel forces just need the support to hold off the invading forces until the precise time (you wonder if we should ask whether Ellanjay graph this convoluted time scheme according to the Central Time Zone or Eastern Standard )TurboJesus shows up and murders everyone.
I suppose I could devote more time in to taking apart the above, but my brain was too busy crashing gears at the next line.
“We respect your wish to not be involved in the actual fighting,” Jamal said, “but your job will be just as critical to defending Jerusalem.”
My response was "The Hell?!" because countless pages in this series have been devoted to Ellanjay's belief that Peace is Evil and Anyone who Advocates it Is Evil, but now, they're having Main Characters suddenly be opposed to fighting in a War and they aren't immediately shown as being Wrong by an Older Person who Knows Better?! Okay, who are you and what have you done with the real Ellanjay?!
Though given that weird little subplot with the militia in the early books and the many passages with Taylor "Awesome" Graham**** where the Tribbles patronizingly shake their heads at all those silly fools, who believe that when you're up against a guy who is supposed to be worst than Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot, you have to actually do something besides sit back and wait for God to solve everything or distribute Jack Chick tracts...I'm finding myself wondering if Ellanjay's beliefs aren't so much "Violence is Right and Good" or "Might Makes Right" as they are "Violence is Okay so long as you absolutely know you're in the right and you only strike back against satanic, tyrannical forces according to an incredibly convoluted timetable." In other words, their Bible is more like the Book of Armaments going "Striking out against the Satanic NWO eighteen months into the Tribulation is not enough. Striking out against the Satanic NWO eighteen minutes after TurboJesus shows up would be way out. You shall strike precisely at this time and no other."
Judd talks about how he read something about how all Morale Monitors and GC soldiers are being pulled to fight in this battle, thus somehow meaning that those without the Mark can walk around without as much fear as before.
The section ends with Lionel watching Token Jew and Our Buck leave Petra.
And that's where I'll leave this snark. Sorry for all the incredibly long lectures over stuff I've mentioned before. I like to think said lectures are more interesting than the actual book, because there's more thought in them, but that may be just the ego talking. Prepare for all the goy-splainning next week that somehow wasn't as brain-crashing as this one line mentioned in passing by another character.
*I have such a trainwreck fascination with that show. This blog snarks the episodes of that series, but only up to the end of the third season. I don't know if you agree with everything the blogger says, but he makes some cogent points. Though most of the time, when I watch this show, I shake my head and think "Boys with their toys." Though some of these people, you find yourself thinking, "If it genuinely is the End of the World As We Know It, I totally want them on my side." Then there's Tyler Smith in Season Three, where you hear about how he was arrested very shortly after the airing of his episode and you're like, "Thank God."
**Seriously, that movie...given the effect it has on me, how it just keeps resurfacing and making me want to shout, "I WILL HAVE YOUR HEAD ON A PLATTER OF GOLD, ZACK SNYDER!" to everyone within earshot...I'm starting to think I might need to develop an amnesia ray just so I don't completely alienate both online buddies and the people I deal with in my day to day life. But seriously, fuck you, Zack Snyder.
***Read the books for the first time after the first movie came out. I, like so many other teenage girls, was totally smitten with Legolas and picked up the books to read more, only to wind up falling head over heels in love with Samwise Gamgee, who is, hands down, the awesomest character in the series. So many times, the quest comes close to falling apart yet he manages to salvage it and keep it going by sheer force of will. Frankly, Legolas comes across as something of a fruit loop and I totally agree with Tolkien in that he accomplished the least of the Fellowship.
****Again, I will continue to insist that Taylor and Hasina aren't dead. No amount of persuading will convince me that they didn't escape and are off doing something awesome in their own books.