For those of you wondering whether there will be any epic, profanity-laded ragedumps, I hate to break it to you, but it's probably not going to happen. Ellanjay's writing comes in two flavors: infuriatingly sociopathic levels of wrong or punishingly dull. This week, they're in punishingly dull mode, and I am in despair. Yeah, the first one is rough on the sanity but at least, there are so many colorful ways of screaming, "This is so very wrong," and I can probably find some good clips on YouTube to liven things up. But this week...
We all know Ellanjay hate suspense, because it ran over their dog when they were kids or something. I could make a crack that they hate suspense because their target audience is made up of elderly dowagers with bad hearts, so naturally they don't want to put undue stress on them, but even by that standard, it's still painfully, punishingly dull.
The big problem I keep running into is because Ellanjay hate suspense, they've already explained, over and over again, exactly what will happen in these books. We also know that unlike most writers, who lay out a plan, only to have things go slightly off-kilter when it comes time to implement said plan, forcing the heroes to have to think on their feet, Ellanjay's plan will go exactly the way they'd laid it out.
They probably consider J.R.R. Tolkien to be a lesser writer for having Frodo, in the big, climatic moment the series has been building to, with so much at stake, have Frodo succumb to the Ring's influence. A hero with weaknesses and moral failings? What is at all compelling about that? Of course, they'd probably consider Tolkien to be suspect in the first place, because he lived and died a devout Catholic and, despite the uneasy alliance they've forged, the Christian Right still has inherent mistrust of those papists.
But we know exactly what will happen, because both the readers and the book characters have had everything laid out for them. That's shitty writing, but fine. You want to know what really makes this week's snark irritating? Despite all this, the characters are still going all "Oh noes! What will happen?" and acting like they have no freaking clue, again, demonstrating the irritating blend of Too Dumb to Live and Genre Savvy, we've all come to expect from these characters.
For those going "tl;dr" I am despairing because most of my critiques regarding this week's snark is just me screaming, "STOP ACTING ALL WORRIED! YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN! STOP PRETENDING LIKE THIS IS THE KIND OF SERIES WHERE IT'S POSSIBLE FOR SOMETHING TO THROW EVERYTHING OFF KILTER!" and there is nothing really entertaining at all about that.
Judging by the tone of the opening lines of this chapter, I'm wondering this was originally supposed to be the beginning for another book. Y'see, Left Behind: the Kids was originally published as forty incredibly thin books, thus allowing Ellanjay to milk more money from this cash cow. For all the complaints their subculture would have about JK Rowling (you just know Ellanjay probably have friends who passed along this article, not realizing that The Onion is a satirical newspaper), if you were to decide to buy the Harry Potter series, even if you only bought paperback editions and stayed away from used, Amazon sets the price for each individual book in a seven book series at about six or seven dollars. Even an English major, who is shitty at math, can tell you'd pay a lot less for the entire Harry Potter series than you would for a forty book series, averaging about five dollars per book.
Plus, as a fan of Harry Potter, I can tell you that you'd get a lot more from reading Harry Potter than you would from Left Behind. JK Rowling actually cares about telling a damn good story and her series is just magical and wonderful from beginning to end. Even if I am still a bit disappointed that Harry and Luna didn't wind up together. I thought they were just cute in their interactions with each other.
Anyway, eventually, someone involved with Left Behind: the kids had a brainstorm and thought, "Y'know we could just shove four of these little books into one volume, so they don't have to track down each individual book." But even the shoved together series comes out to twelve books. Even if we assume average eBook price of about 9.99 per volume, again readers are still getting screwed. Heck, even if you purchase the individual eBooks, at 1.99 (which looks to be what Amazon is charging) for each of the forty books, yeah, readers are really getting hosed by Ellanjay.
Y'know, I didn't expect to be doing so much math this week. As an English Major, I can tell you the stereotype people have about English Majors, about how we're utterly horrible at math, is totally true. It's one of the few stereotypes that are. Me and most of the people I studied with, along with the professors I studied under, would probably break down in hysterical tears if you asked us to do any math beyond the basics, without the aid of a calculator.
Anyway, Vicki is all "Oh noes" about the approaching GC army, even while she's thinking about how TurboJesus will show up and kill everyone. I suppose I could spend hours on TV Tropes to pinpoint the exact term for this kind of shitty writing trope, but that website is enough of a time suck as is. There's a reason they have a page called TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. Especially when this can be easily summed up with They Just Didn't Care and we can move onto the next plot point. Because I think it's been made abundantly clear that Ellanjay don't care and I can safely say that I've put more thought into one blog post than they did into their entire series.
A few good, brave-hearted RTCs try to get these heathen, Christ-killing Jews to abandon their faith and accept TurboJesus. They respond by saying, "We don't want your blasphemy! Stay away from us!" I'm surprised Ellanjay were able to resist the temptation to have said unnamed character scream, "The truth...It burns usss!" like a stereotypical exorcism patient, or at least be more stereotypically Jewish in their writing of said dialogue. Like say, "Oy vey, again, with the Jesus-talk. Driving me meshuggah you are with all this talk about Jesus. You'd think that Schmo parted the Red Sea for Israel, the way you go on and on about him. You want to learn a new tune?" After which, they'd go around doing something Jewish, like circumcising baby boys or eating matzo or challah, while they control all the world's finances or something.
Yes, I am well aware that Jewish does not mean Yiddish, but again, I was trying to make a point about how they view Jewish people. I'd say I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but I really wonder if what I typed is an exaggeration, like at all. They probably do see the Jewish people like that.
Judd and Vicki talk about how Chang says that Jerusalem will fall. They heroically managed to resist talking about how those killed, trying to defend their sacred city, will burn in hell forever, and we don't even get a passage where they shake their heads about how those Jews insist on remaining all inscrutable and Jewish.
Vicki nodded and closed the curtain. “Chang said in his last e-mail that Tsion was coming here to help bring his fellow Jews into the kingdom before it was too late. Tsion believes the Unity Army will capture many rebels and conquer Jerusalem.”
“Are you scared?”
Vicki hugged Judd. “I keep remembering what you said about sticking together no matter what. And if we’re attacked by the GC, at least we’ll die together.”
“I’d rather be alive to see Jesus when he comes back, but you’re right. From here on out, we stick close.”
Because I'm a drooling pervert (cut my writing teeth on fanfiction, what does that tell you?) who loves to read innuendo into the most innocuous passages, especially in Christian Fiction because they are the best unintentional creators of Ho Yay around, let's just say I'm fighting the urge to tell Vicki that given that Judd has demonstrated more affection/tension when he interacted with male characters than he ever does when he interacts with her, to quote the Immortal Randy Hickey, I think you're trying to sell a cat to a man who fancies dogs.
I often wonder what my life was like before I became a drooling pervert, capable of reading innuendo into everything. Maybe I had more friends, willing to hang out and watch movies with me, but can I really say that life was more interesting? I'm just sayin'.
We then cut to Black Guy, I mean, Lionel. Because in addition to being a drooling pervert, I also am a firm believer "Misery loves company." So I'm going to post the opening paragraphs to his section, just so we can all headdesk together. Because if I have to go through life with a freakishly flattened forehead, so should the rest of you!
Lionel Washington sat on his bed in Petra, scanning the list of names in his prayer diary. Many of them were highlighted in yellow and had the word home written after their name. Ryan Daley. Pete Davidson. Mark Eisman. Chloe Williams. It won’t be long until I see all of these people, he thought.
He wasn’t as sure about his other friends on the list. Rayford Steele. Buck Williams. Tsion Ben-Judah. Lionel knew from Chang Wong that Buck and Tsion were in Jerusalem. And Rayford Steele had returned to Petra in a chopper and was probably spending time with his grandson, Kenny. But what would happen in the morning? Would Jesus come back before the GC attacked? Already the Unity Army had Petra surrounded.
Again, the only criticism I can give to this passage involves screaming over and over again, "STOP ACTING LIKE YOU'RE A CHARACTER IN A WELL-WRITTEN SERIES WHERE THERE MIGHT ACTUALLY BE SOME DOUBT! YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN! EVERYTHING WILL GO THE EXACT WAY YOUR SUBCULTURE'S INCREDIBLY CONVOLUTED PROPHECY SAYS IT WILL!"
As if they feel I haven't headdesked enough, they feel a need to drive it home, by having Lionel think this in the next paragraph: What if Tsion is wrong about Petra? What if Jerusalem stands and Petra falls?
If you're wondering about that whumping sound, again, it's me, because there really is no other response to give except to headdesk or headwall, if you prefer, over and over again.
Though this does allow for me to spout philosophy about writing and the rules of good entertainment in general. If y'all object, want me to "STFU!" and get back to the book, I'll put it inside brackets, so those inclined can scroll past it.
[TANGENT] You hear a lot of idiots say about Romantic Comedies that they're stupid because, "Well, duh, it's obvious that Julia Roberts will wind up with Richard Gere." I admit that I am not a fan of that genre, but my complaints more run the course of "Female character winds up a weaker character at the end than she was at the beginning, because apparently a woman can't be all strong and independent and care about her career and :gasp: have a man in her life."
But that complaint aside, idiots, who complain about how you totes know that the two MCs will become a couple, are missing the point. Every genre has its conventions and the people who pay money to see Romantic Comedies, are well aware of the conventions of said genre. They know the two MCs will wind up together. The question that separates good Romantic Comedies from bad is, "Do you care that they wind up together?"
Plus, the idiots, who complain about the conventions of entertainment marketed towards ladies (I can do a whole long rant about that, but I'll spare you for now), overlook the fact that all genres, even the Big Boy action films marketed towards manly men, have conventions as well. It's a basic rule of plotting that a story has to have structure with each event unfolding logically from the one that proceeded it. Or in other words, the principle known as Chekov's Gun.
So people who go to James Bond movies, generally have a template about the movie they're about to watch. Bad Guy stirs up Trouble, James Bond is called to deal with it. James Bond gets some gadgets, sexes up a few ladies, has some epic car chases and fight scenes, but ultimately defeats the Bad Guy and all is well until the next movie that is. Again, the question with James Bond and other action movies isn't "Will the Hero win?" as it is "Will the audience care if the Hero wins?"
You can make a case that the movies in the MCU are equally predictable, but again, the people involve know the conventions and know their audience. They know that a billionaire battling evil in robotic armor that he built himself is inherently ridiculous, but it is also inherently awesome. Part of why people love superheroes, either in comic or cinematic form, is the ridiculous awesome spectacle of it all. We know that there are all kinds of physics issues related to Superman's ability to fly, but at the same time, we really do want to believe a man can fly.
Superhero movies are at their best when they manage to pull off the hat trick: they make little nods at the silliness, but for the most part, the concept is played straight, which makes sense. When Hero goes off to face Villain, there should be some tension, so no having both sides unleashing constant puns at each other.
But playing it straight doesn't mean "So Over the Top, Dark And Gritty that Your Movie Actually becomes Outright Unpleasant to Watch.
Your heroes also don't have to be complete goody-goods. Heck, one of the reasons everyone loves Han Solo* (including me) is that from the start, we are shown that he's much more morally grey than Luke, who falls more into the traditional hero mode. Han Solo is initially in it for the money. He probably knows about the Rebellion and the Empire, but he's more concerned about getting the Old Guy and the Kid to Alderaan and collecting enough to pay off the debts he's acquired.
Heck, I think that's why everyone ate up The Guardians of the Galaxy** with a silver spoon. For those who haven't seen that movie (and why haven't you seen it, you Un-American Islamo-Commie-Fascist Bastard?!) the titular characters are initially in it for selfish reasons. "Work together so we can collect the bounty on this weird-ass artifact, then we'll split the money and go our separate ways," is their initial plan, but when it becomes clearer that bigger shit is at work here and lives are at stake, they, like Han Solo, rise to occasion and become heroes. [/TANGENT]
All right, I'm done for now.
Lionel doesn't really do anything of note in his section. Just spends it navel-gazing and thinking about everyone he's met, as a service to educate the stupider readers in the audience. We do get this line, which you really wish Ellanjay took five minutes to think through the implications of:
Kids, Lionel thought. We haven’t been kids since this whole thing started. The disappearances had forced them to grow up fast.
Again, as me and pretty much everyone who comments on this blog will point out, childhood would pretty much cease to be a thing once the Rapture happened. In fact, as Fred has noted many, many times, pretty much none of the stuff on Tim LaHaye's prophecy list can happen, because people will be like, "Holy Fuck! All children under some arbitrarily determined cut-off age, are gone!" Or to put it in YouTube form, the world of Left Behind will resemble Children of Men a helluva lot more than it would "Buck buys a range rover." Seriously, the power of that scene in Children of Men, where two warring parties are motivated to declare a temporary ceasefire, in order to protect the first baby born in years...Alfonso Cuaron understood the power that the mere sight of a newborn would evoke in a world without children. Pity, that Ellanjay don't have a tenth of his story-telling abilities.
[Slight Tangent] I am morbidly curious about a movie adaptation proposed for the For!Kids version of Left Behind. Again, I doubt it will be good. Shitty source material usually leads to a shitty movie. In the cases where shitty source material led to an adaptation that's actually worth your time, it's because someone involved recognized that "Shitty source material is shitty," took what worked, jettisoned what didn't, and used it as a launching pad for their own story.
Like as Linkara points out in his retrospective on ROM Space Knight, part of what makes the series so remarkable is that the creators were given little to nothing to work with. Toy company wanted a comic series to promote a new toy, so they sought out Marvel. Marvel Comics basically gave the writers a toy and told them, "Tell a story about this toy." The writers were given almost no backstory or details to work with and the toy itself wasn't that impressive (its features are basically, it lights up and makes noise), yet with so little, they were able to create a damn good series out of something that got its start as a cheap tie-in product. So much so that you really wish that MARVEL COMICS WOULD GET THE RIGHTS BACK TO THE CHARACTER SO THE COMICS CAN BE REPRINTED AND READERS ARE NO LONGER FORCED TO SCROUNGE AROUND FOR USED COPIES!
But given that Tim LaHaye's grandson has been cast as Nicky (though you really wish you could get a total ham like Tim Curry or Nicholas Cage)***, I doubt the poor people involved with the production of that film will have much creative leeway. But given that book and film are different mediums, they will be forced to make creative changes (because even an epic like Lord of the Rings can only get away with being so long) in order to make the story flow better. Heck, I'm willing to give it points in that rather than spend entirely too much time dicking around producing a "subversive newspaper," the kids actually show some brain cells and GTFO to the countryside to start setting up a farm, so as to be ready when God kills off all plant and animal life. For that reason alone, I'm already willing to say that the movie will be better than the books. It will still be a terrible movie, but it won't be as terrible as the books. [/Slight Tangent]
Next section, surprisingly, is told from Conrad's perspective rather than Judd, Vicki, or Lionel's. Granted it is entirely tell, because Ellanjay use Tell when they should use Show and Show, when they should Tell, as anyone who has snarked any Ellanjay series will tell you.
Conrad Graham watched the sun move toward the horizon from a basement window of an abandoned house in Palos Hills, Illinois. He and the other members of the Wisconsin group had finally settled into several homes near Enoch Dumas, the shepherd of a growing group of Christ followers from many different backgrounds. Enoch spoke with a Spanish accent, which Conrad loved. One night a Latino woman who had lived in an abandoned laser-tag park told her story. The next night it was an African-American man who admitted to everything from grave robbing to murder. Kids from the street and drug addicts all had stories of how God had reached out to them.
Conrad had been able to stay with Enoch himself and considered it as big a privilege as being in Petra. They had the chance to bring people to God every day. Though many had cautioned them to be more careful, Enoch and his followers wouldn’t pass up a chance to help people receive Christ.
Again, you really wish that this part was being told by the people mentioned in the paragraphs, rather than an outsider like Conrad. Because from the sounds of it, they have experienced actual suffering, known real misery, which, no matter how many times Ellanjay say otherwise, Conrad hasn't. Since converting, Conrad has been safely cossetted and protected. He's observed the physical and psychological suffering, but only at arms' length. So he comes across as a one of those idiots who think that because they went on a tour of a slum, without talking to a single resident that they paid to gawk at like an animal in a zoo, they know all about poverty and its effects.
So yeah, Conrad's talking about how these stories affected him, is much less compelling and interesting than it would be to actually hear these people tell their stories firsthand. It's one of the reasons why, whether you agree with Johnny Cash's religious views or not, you can still enjoy his music. Johnny Cash may have never been a hardened convict, but he is a man who has known pain and suffering, so when he sings songs with Christian themes, you can believe that he knows what it's like to desperately crave love and redemption. Unlike too many artists who indulge in adolescent puerile romanticism about how life is painful because they're not happy, Johnny Cash knows his shit. And again, serves as a nice reminder that Christian Art Doesn't Always Suck, so forgive me for indulging in that little tangent.
I will say that I do raise an eyebrow at some of the details. Like rather than live in an abandoned laser-tag park (is Laser-Tag even still a thing?), why didn't Unnamed Latino Woman move into one of the many abandoned homes that would have, y'know, beds and kitchens, and be much more livable than a Laser-Tag Park?
Granted this is supposed to be near Chicago, which has been nuked twice by my reckoning, but we've already established that Ellanjay are all "Nukes? How do they work?" when it comes to that stuff. In fact, sometimes I dream of, out of morbid curiosity, asking Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye during one of those scenes where they chat with fans of their works, "How do nukes work and what are the aftereffects of nuclear warfare?" I know the answer would be disappointing and I'd headdesk in response, but I think I've developed Stockholm Syndrome thanks to this series. I'm like a male praying mantis: I can't be content unless they bite my head completely off.
As for the guy who confessed to grave-robbing, my head canon was it was done in the wake of the Rapture. With everything in disarray, he decided to help himself to the jewelry left behind in the coffins of the dead people who were bamfed into Heaven. The murder part can be explained as "It's the End of the World as We Know It and No One Feels fine!" Of course, in all likelihood, Unnamed Confessor is guilty of this stuff the way the guy mentioned in this post claims to have broken all ten commandments before the age of fifteen. Desperate times leading to desperate measures, causing otherwise good people to commit horrible acts, because they're stressed and can't see any other alternatives? That's Unpossible! Almost as unpossible as the majority of the perpetrators of horrific atrocities, for the most part, believing themselves to be good people with genuine love for friends and family and believe that the ends will ultimately justify the means.
As you guessed, not really much happens, because nothing ever happens in these books, but we do get this moment that I found humorous.
Enoch nodded. “I know what you mean. But I don’t think it’ll happen until morning.”
“Why is that? Doesn’t the Bible say no one knows when Christ will return?”
“True. But eight in the morning our time will be the seven-year anniversary of the signing of the treaty between Carpathia and Israel. To the minute.”
I'm forced to conclude, like Firedrake, that Nicky instituted One-World Time, along with One-World-Government and One-World-Religion. It's the only way, I'll stop laughing long enough to finish this snark. Because of course, the writers of the Bible knew about the modern AM/PM measuring of time, just like they knew about hours, though as any scholar would tell you, the hour is a relatively new measurement when it comes to time. Heck, most time-related measurements are new. We didn't really become obsessed with making sure X happened at precisely X hours and minutes, until the invention of the railroad forced us to basically map and measure all this out, because trains run on stuff called fuel; therefore, it's important that they not breakdown in the middle of nowhere, because they ran out of fuel, due to differences in time zones leading to miscalculations.
I know I've quoted this bit from Roger Ebert's delightfully scathing review of End of Days (aka the movie where Arnold fights Satan), but I'm going to do it again, because it just sums up the hilarity so much.
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.
The chapter ends with Judd. He can't sleep and talks with Lina. You'll be happy to know that Shivte and his sons have embraced RTC-ianity and abandoned the faith of their fathers. Woo...S-Wife isn't mentioned and since from what I can tell, she isn't ever given a name, I'm going to always call her S-Wife. Because Shivte's RTC Wife is too long to type and I'm lazy.
Jamal wants Judd to go with him to the Damascus Gate For Reasons! I wish I could say I knew or cared about what these reasons where, but hey. Judd wants to take Vicki with him, but Jamal's all "It's too dangerous!" But Judd is like "I can't leave her behind" and Lina and Vicki enter and are all "We're coming with you!"
And that's it for this week. Hope I managed to make some good snark out of the poor material I was given and I hope all the tangents weren't too long or too boring to handle. :) Take care until next week, folks, when we get more goysplainning and an Obligatory Conversion Scene. Because Ellanjay feel we will embrace Satanism if we aren't given an Obligatory Conversion Scene at various intervals, regardless of whether it has any relevance to the plot or if it slows down action that would actually be worth reading, instead of just having the characters tell us what happened.
*If you asked me, point-blank who were my first childhood crushes, I would have to say, "Either Tommy Oliver or Han Solo." And I've never gotten over either one because you very rarely get over childhood crushes. And yes, I am totally a supporter of "Han Shot First."It was just so perfect a scene. It clearly demonstrated that Han is much more morally gray than Luke in that he doesn't hesitate to shoot Greedo nor is he too shaken up by it afterwards, yet at the same time, it sows the seeds for Han's future heroic turn in that he's not completely ruthless in that he waits until Greedo makes his intentions known, before shooting him.
**I never foresaw that movie being as insanely successful as it was. I figured, "It's an August release about a team that few people, aside from rabid comic book fans, would have heard of. Best bet: it'll be a sleeper." Instead, it wound up being the highest-grossing movie of 2014, thus proving (just as the popularity of Justin Bieber and Dancing with the Stars) I shouldn't go into stock market analysis.
***Admittedly Nicholas Cage was boringly terrible as Rayford Steele, but admit it, if they had casted him as Nicky and Cage was in full-on gonzo bear suit-wearing punching-random-people-mode, you'd totally see that movie. Again, never try to cast Nicholas Cage as a voice of reason character: no one who named their kid, Kal-El, could ever be believable as a Voice of Reason. Oh and for those of you have only seen clips from his take on Wicker Man, let me assure you: they are just as hilarious in context as they are out of it.