The first section is a brief opening with Lionel that touches upon something that keeps coming up in this series. Even though the characters, unlike the readers, have seen nothing but incontrovertible proof as to the existence of God, they still act like this is our world where a person can go their entire life without seeing any proof one-tenth as awesome or irrefutable as God swatting nukes out of the sky, like Buck witnessed before the Rapture. I'm fairly certain something that big and showy would provoke soul-searching from everyone, even Richard Dawkins.
But as Fred has pointed out, no one, outside of Lucinda Washington, seems to have seen anything noteworthy about it. Heck, not even Irene Steele, aka a whole-hearted Rapture nut, seemed to think anything was unusual; didn't even bring it up in her arguments with Rayford though you imagine she would have gotten a lot further with, "Uh, did you see that broadcast on CNN about Israel was saved from Nuclear Armageddon when something, probably God, swatted aside all of Russia's Nukes*?" than she would have with, "Can you imagine, Rafe? Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"
Of course, it's even more irritating now that we're seven years in and the characters have been through a new freakish supernatural occurrence every week, yet they're still scratching their heads going, "Durr...I wonder what it means?" It's like I keep pointing out: it's not so much the existence of God that denizens of the LB-verse would question; it's the nature of said God, whether He is worthy of being worshipped, and how do you hold onto sanity and stay alive, given that said god is an eldritch horror who kicks over the board, makes the laws of nature its bitch, every time it damn well feels like it?
I know, I know, too much philosophical discourse, not enough chatter about the book. But tell me if you can read this opening section and not headdesk just a little:
LIONEL watched in awe as the sun dipped toward the horizon. He had never seen such a sight. Throughout the day, the sky had been clear. Now, fluffy marshmallow-like clouds seemed to appear, one after another, moving quickly above him.
After the incident in the desert, Sam and Lionel asked Zeke for a break and Zeke agreed. Sam and Lionel moved back into camp and ate their evening meal. When Mr. Stein joined them, Sam explained all that had happened.
Mr. Stein saw the fear in Sam’s eyes. “The Lord has protected us these past few years,” he said, smiling. “Why would you think it would be different now?”
“We’ve never gone up against that before,” Sam said, pointing to the vast army.
“But look at that,” Mr. Stein said, gesturing to the sky. The clouds had formed a canopy above them, and the reflection of the orange sun took their breath away. “Your outlook needs an up-look. Any God who could create that masterpiece should be trusted with your life, don’t you think?”
Again, I'm headdesking because this is the same basic argument RTCs use in the real world. If they manage to resist the temptation of the circular argument they normally use ("How do you know God exists?" "Because the Bible tells me so." "How do you know the Bible is accurate?" "Because it's the word of God."), RTCs will point to things like the beauty of sunsets as proof of the existence of God. We could easily point out all the flaws in said argument, like how beauty is subjective (What one person finds beautiful, another finds insipid) and that science buffs can easily talk about how these specific atmospheric conditions/gases produce the colors associated with sunsets, but the point I keep making is that the LB-verse isn't our world where God is a matter of faith and there isn't really something solid you can point to and say, "There's God."
The LB-verse is one where freakish supernatural occurrences happen so often, they're barely news. All the scientific laws woven into the fabric of our universe, are thrown and tossed aside whenever
I suppose you could make an argument that Ellanjay are making a half-assed effort in an attempt to reflect reality, so these books can be used as evangelical tools, but again, YOU FAIL, ELLANJAY! I know they probably all think that everyone, save for a small sliver of humanity, are a bunch of Godless heathens who go around going "La-La-La Can't hear you!" and ignore Obvious proof as to the existence of God, in the form of the beauty of sunsets, but we are not completely lacking in natural curiosity. Humans observe, study, and figure shit out. It's how we clawed our way to the top of the food chain. Any of this freaky stuff happened, scientists would be working over time, studying the heck out of the bloody water to discern its properties, trying to breed the demon locusts and see what new hybrids can be produced, or they'd be like "Okay, can we figure out what causes Nicky's natural bioluminescence and harness it to deal with the darkness plague?"
That was one of the things that was actually pretty damn cool about World War Z, the book, of course, not the movie with Brad Pitt. At first when the Z-plague hit, we blundered around and screwed up because this was all new to us, but eventually, the humans started paying attention, noticing what did work and what didn't work against the zombies, and took things from there. Like they noticed that Zombies basically shut down during winter, so communities would schedule major reconstruction projects during that time, because then they can pull people away from patrols/watch and throw themselves into their work without worry.
Because, like I said before, that's what humans do. We observe, we learn, we figure shit out, and we adapt.
I know, I went on too long, but it just keeps happening during both this week's chapter and from the looks of it, next week's as well, with all the characters wondering "Is TurboJesus really going to show up at the predicted time even though every other predicted event has happened just as Tim LaHaye's sockpuppet character has predicted?"
Anyway, next selection is told from Vicki's perspective and because I'm a drooling pervert with a generally dim view of Judd and Vicki's relationship, I spent most of the section mentally making juvenile "That's what she said!" cracks in my head. Like I said, nothing will convince me that they married out of love. They can protest all they like, but as far as I can tell, Vicki wanted to get laid before TurboJesus took away sex, but she lacked the nerve to just :gasp: have consensual intercourse with another character outside of marriage and just pray for forgiveness afterwards. As for Judd...y'know what I'm going to be lazy and let a Simpsons clip speak for me. Those of you morbidly curious enough can debate which male character Judd would have as his screensaver.
I'll post the opening sentences so everyone gets to indulge their drooling pervert self and try to think of a nice way of telling Vicki, "I think you're trying to sell a cat to a man who fancies dogs."
Vicki held Judd until the fatigue stiffened her whole body. She lay down beside him, an arm draped over him. The rising and falling of his chest let her know he was still alive.
The sun’s orange glow reflected in the clouds above, clouds she hadn’t seen earlier. She wished Judd would wake up so they could share this.
I know, I know I read way too much into these things but like I said, I'm a drooling pervert and I'm bored. Let me have this, dammit!
As usually, whoever's writing this is desperately trying to spin their wheels, convince us that Judd and Vicki are in actual peril and stuff is actually going to happen!
She tried to shut out the conversation of the GC soldiers around them. Many mocked the prisoners, saying they were Jesus freaks or Ben-Judah freaks or cursing them. “I don’t know why they had us take prisoners in the first place,” one said. “We should have killed them all where they stood.”
I don't know why you take prisoners in the first place, Anonymous GC Soldier who may be the only mook in this series with any sense. I know supposedly that only Nicky and Leon Fortunado know that they are aligned with Satan and all that, but given how far we're into this series and Nicky knows all the prophetic stuff, why does he still make a half-assed attempt at all this "Peacey McPeace" routine? Why not just shoot your enemies, bury them in mass graves, and turn them into unpersons and pretend like they never existed in the first place, like Joseph Stalin?
I could assume that maybe Ellanjay did some research and they're trying to show parallels by having Nicky conduct show trials like Communist Russia/China, but even so, I object. Stalin and Mao didn't have conclusive proof that the world was going to end in seven years, so why not just give them a bullet between the eyes, bury them in mass graves, and move on, rather than wasting time and resources Nicky doesn't have with imprisonment and show trials and televised executions that give the criminal a chance to grandstand and become martyrs before having their heads chopped off?
Anyway, Commander Fulcire tries to drag Judd off, saying they need to burn the dead for health reasons. Vicki's all "Oh noes!" but Judd stirs, proving himself conveniently not dead. Obligatory Monty Python clip.
Rather than just hit him with the butt of his rifle, which is what I'd do, Fulcire walks over, taunts Judd for a bit, and talks about how Vicki looks familiar to him. Since like I've said before, my brain is largely made up of Simpsons quotes, I'm thinking of this exchange between Smithers and Burns:
Mr. Burns: Simpson, eh? New man?
Smithers: He thwarted your campaign for governor, you ran over his son, he saved the plant from meltdown, his wife painted you in the nude...
Mr. Burns: Doesn't ring a bell.
Vicki and Judd talk about how TurboJesus will show up soon and I wonder if an editor intervened at some point, saving me from passages where they salivate from desire at the thought of all those godless heathens who will soon die horribly and suffer for all eternity, and Vicki and Judd are so turned on at the thought that they give each other handjobs to tide them over until then.
I say handjobs because both Vicki and Judd are hurt, so they might not be up to making the beast with two backs. Just know that when TurboJesus does show up, he'll heal all their injuries and they'll be so turned on, that they'll be doing the kinds of acts that even just mentioning the name of, incurs a massive fine from the FCC.
[Incredibly Disturbing TANGENT] I have a similar theory regarding Rick Sanctorum. No man can be that straight-laced, that obsessed with sex (gay and otherwise), and not turn out to have something deeply, deeply effed up with him. Eventually Sanctorum will get ensnared in a sex scandal (because when it comes to the Christian Right, it's always sex that takes 'em down), but given how tightly wound/straight-laced he is, it won't be the traditional "shtupping the sexy intern" or "soliciting sex in an airport men's room" kind of scandals that bring down most politicians. You just know with Sanctorum it will be something so effed up and disturbing that merely to gaze upon it...you'll find yourself envying the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Though I am a little surprise that in the GOP campaign freakshow, Sanctorum didn't throw his hat into the ring. Thought he was going to be the new Harold Stassen, keep throwing his hat into the ring of every presidential race until claimed by the icy hand of death. Or did he look at the overwhelming amount of crazy and decide that, "Y'know there are more dignified/respectable jobs available than running for president. Heard people are always needing grave-robbers and/or people willing to snatch candy from babies." If he did, it's a rare show of intelligence from a member of the GOP. But Sanctorum is still undeniably creepy as hell and I stand by my "He's going to get ensnared by a sex scandal" theory. [/TANGENT]
We cut back to Conrad, who is listening to Enoch talk some more. aunursa said that the reason Lionel has a fairly normal name, despite being :gasp: ethnic, is that he and his mother were created before Jenkins got the idea that all ethnic characters should have an obvious ethnic name that basically labels them as Ethnic McEthnic. So now I'm wondering if I'm obsessive enough (and you know I am), if I figure out at what precise moment did that meme enter Jerry Jenkins's head and I somehow rewrite the laws of time and space and invent time travel, could I go back in time and punch out Jenkins or whoever gave him that idea?
[Time Travel TANGENT]
I know if I have the capacity for Time Travel, I should use it to make more meaningful changes, do the whole "Kill Hitler" bit, but my consumption of popular fiction has taught me that nothing but bad, comes from trying to make meaningful changes. So instead, I've decided if I ever get the ability to time travel, I'll just use it to punk with historical figures I hate. Leap out of a portal, punch out Nathaniel Hawthorne and be like, "That's for The Scarlet Letter, you asshole!" and disappear while he stands there with a "WTF?!" look on his face.
Besides, trying to kill Hitler is so played out. There have been so many stories written about it. Why not go back further and try to save the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and see if you can prevent WWI entirely? Because most historians agree that WWII wouldn't have happened if WWI didn't set the stage, and you can make a convincing case that all the horrible shit of the 20th century can be traced directly or indirectly back to WWI. Plus, the assassination of the Archduke reads like a rejected Keystone Kops script and would almost be hilarious, were it not for the horrific events that spawned from it. A whole lot of people died because someone couldn't be arsed to give the chauffeur the changed directions. [/TANGENT]
But I probably shouldn't. Jenkins's tin ear for names serves as a nice source of innocent merriment that I probably shouldn't deprive myself of it. Besides mess around too much with the past and monkeys rule the future!
I know, should apologize for all the damn tangents/barely related pop culture references, but gotta do something to keep myself awake. If y'all object, you can start your own blog and do this however you want.
Anyway, we cut to Conrad's perspective. Enoch is explaining in narration form about all the stuff that's going to happen. I know I should object to that kind of laziness, but I actually prefer it when they just say narrate about whatever horrible stuff is going to happen and just get to it, already. Now character stuff like the annoying Shelly/Conrad subplot, should be fleshed out because again, it develops characters and if you want a conflict to have meaning, you shouldn't have the bulk of it take place off-screen.
Enoch explained that twenty-one judgments had come from heaven in three sets of seven. These showed God’s mercy on one hand, calling people to repentance, but also God’s anger at evil. According to the Bible, the judgments were poured out by angels from bowls or vials.
Enoch went through each of the seven bowls, judgments that came in the form of sores on people’s bodies, the sea turning to blood, rivers and springs turning to blood, the sun becoming hot enough to burn people alive, New Babylon’s darkness, and the drying up of the Euphrates River.
I know there are many charts helpfully explaining all the horrible stuff that's supposed to happen--I've linked to them in the past--but so far, none of them has ever helped me understand the freaky events that are supposed to happen, nor will they ever help me. In fact, were it not for the fact that millions of people actually believe in the whole PMD BS as laid out by Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsay, I'd assume whoever put these charts together, was a schizophrenia patient with some skills in graphic design. Though that feels unfair to people with schizophrenia: even someone in the grips of full-blown psychosis could craft a more compelling, coherent worldview than anything the PMDs come up with. Seriously why do they even bother with these charts or Bibles at all? Just distribute a bullet-point list with stuff like "YEAR ONE: Rapture, X Number of Months later, this freaky event," and so on and so forth for the rest of the timeline. Simple and it's easy to put together and understand.
Then Enoch helpfully says this:
“The seventh bowl judgment, the one we still await, will be poured out upon the air so that lightning and thunder and other celestial calamities announce the greatest earthquake in history. It will be so great it will cause Jerusalem to break into three pieces in preparation for changes during Christ’s millennial kingdom. It will also be accompanied by a great outpouring of hundred-pound hailstones.
“And what will the general response be from the very ones God is trying to reach and persuade? Revelation 16:21 tells us that ‘they cursed God because of the hailstorm, which was a very terrible plague.’ ”
Most would consider being bombarded with 100 pound hailstones to be a terrible plague. Again, probably while they wouldn't do the same damage as 100 pound asteroids/meteorites, because they're made of ice and not rock, still think it would really, really be bad for the Earth to be bombarded with 100 pound hail.
Again, not going to do the math, because as an English major, I break down in hysterical tears when called upon to do anything beyond the basics without the assistance of a calculator, but the largest hail on record is about eight inches in diameter, 18.5 in circumference, and 1.9375 pounds in weight. I'll let my more astute readers do the math to figure out the specs on 100 pound hailstones, but I'm fairly certain that given that hail tends to fall from the sky, which most would agree is pretty high up, probably if anyone in South Dakota (where the record-breaking hailstones fell) was dumb enough to be outside during it and not hunkered down inside, if they got hit by a nearly 2 lb. hailstone, they'd be dead. So yeah, somebody gets hit by 100 lb. hail will be blood splatter on the pavement and wake up in Hell, before they ever got a chance to say, "Huh?"
But we've established many times that Ellanjay's depiction of God is an unshaven man in a wife-beater and bathrobe, shouting at his cowering spouse and/or children, "Now look what you made me do!" so again, isn't too surprising that they'd be shocked, shocked, that people would immediately fall down and worship a guy who bludgeoned the planet with 100 lb. hail and in addition to reducing innocent people to splatter, may have induced conditions akin to nuclear winter.
Enoch talks about how after all that, TurboJesus shows up, and Conrad acknowledges his place in the hierarchy by praying for Judd and Vicki in Jerusalem.
We cut back to Judd and Vicki. Again, the GC are being awfully respectful of their human rights for a global satanic dictatorship. Again, they're just holding them prisoner and though Judd complains about having a headache and later Vicki talks about blood leaking from her bandaged leg, I'm rolling my eyes because again, sounds like an unpleasant Boy Scout camping trip, not a gulag.
They talk and talk and it's all very boring, until Vicki says this, after which it I headdesk for a few minutes: “What if Tsion was wrong? Even Jesus said no one knows the hour when he’s going to return.”
Because I thought the whole appeal of the PMD mythos was that it claimed to know exactly when TurboJesus would return, unlike all those effete, swishy liberals who quote those verses and say heretical ideas like, "Y'know when Jesus and everybody else in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, talked about caring for the poor? Maybe we should actually take it literally and actually do it, actually feed and clothe them rather than just hand out Jack Chick tracts." "Dem heretics with their insistence upon reading what's there, without using the magical decoder ring our pastor gave us, and insisting that Jesus and everybody else meant for us to do this stuff now, rather than at some indeterminate point several millennia from when the book was actually written. Bah, I say!"
I think it's the fact that Donald Trump has a decent shot at both the nomination and possibly the White House that has left me unable to express any emotion but bitter sarcasm. I wouldn't mind too much, because I am naturally an isolated weirdo, but people keep dragging me out of the house and I'm afraid other people may find said bitter sarcasm to be somewhat off-putting. But this may be one of those problems that will resolve itself; after a while, people are going to stop wanting to hang out with me and I can be my isolated, headcase self.
But it's just something that keeps irritating me, how the characters in this series are both simultaneously Genre Savvy and Too Dumb to Live. Given that everything else that was predicted to happen, has happened right on schedule, there's no reason for Vicki to suddenly have doubts.
Things liven up briefly when it turns out the Fulcire knows who Vicki is.
The commander returned with a smile, holding the device. He turned it around, and Judd tried not to react. Vicki’s picture, along with her personal information, flashed on the screen. She was one of the most wanted young people in the world.
“So, Vicki B—” Fulcire grinned—“we finally meet. Who would have thought I’d have to come all the way to Israel to find you? What a lucky break.”
I suppose I could go digging through God-only-knows how many posts and figure out when this happened in the timeline and see if Vicki and Fulcire crossed paths at other points between then and now, but I'm just too damn lazy. I will just say that I will never stop wondering why Judd is recognized as the leader of the YTF, given that of the four MCs of this series, Vicki has racked up the most converts and done most of the heavy lifting in getting everybody together, while Judd flies around from Jerusalem to New Babylon to who knows how many other countries without seeing or doing anything of note. But Judd is the possessor of the almighty white penis, which I assume Ellanjay consider explanation enough.
Fulcire loses points in that he doesn't immediately shoot Vicki after recognizing her. Instead he blusters for a bit. Though will give Fulcire some points in that he immediately starts threatening and roughing up Judd. Yeah, again it's basic, by-the-book villainy, but given how much the villains suck, you applaud whenever they demonstrate some sense. It's a time old tradition: people may be willing to stand strong and die for their beliefs, but if you go after their spouse or a kid or someone close to them, they cave pretty fast. People are willing to die for their beliefs, but basic humanity says that they'll blanch at making someone else pay the price for it. Hence why said tactic has been utilized by nearly every asshole dictator throughout history.
Anyway, Judd is all manly and "Don't tell them" but Vicki, probably because she's weak and female, is like "Stop! I'll tell you everything." I'm going to assume that y'all are smart enough to know that nothing is going to come of this, just like nothing came of all the previous times she was captured. I would be impressed if Vicki lied, because basic knowledge of war will tell you that false or bad information is often worse than no information at all, but given all the issues the RTC subculture has with lying (even though captured soldiers only legally have to give their name, rank, and serial number. Afterwards, they don't have to say anything and they can even lie and the US Military often encourages them to do so for reasons I've already stated), they'll employ some weaselly tactic so Vicki won't do something so gauche as lie to protect herself, Judd, and her friends. Again, RTCs believe in Absolute Morality, but said morality can only work in a stable, democratic society with plentiful food and resources. Anything tips that balance, and Absolute Morality falls apart pretty fast. But admitting to being wrong is worse than actually being wrong, so they can't admit that Moral Relativism, aka choosing between a lesser of two evils or just admitting that circumstances forced your hand, is right. Hence why they will never have a good response when you point out examples like Oskar Schindler who :gasp: lied to the Nazis in order to smuggle Jews to safety.
Anyway, chapter ends with Lionel. Rayford shows up, hurt and injured on an ATV, and I'm quoting this paragraph because it never stops amusing me, how everyone instinctively recognizes that Rayford holds the highest rank of all in the Great Chain of Being.
He hurried outside to see tens of thousands gathering their evening meal applaud people riding on ATVs. Rayford Steele was being carried by someone from the Tribulation Force. Lionel had heard earlier that Rayford had been injured or possibly killed in an accident. People waved and screamed encouragement as the former pilot for Nicolae Carpathia passed.
I have to wonder how whoever wrote this, resisted the temptation to have the Tribbles wave palm branches and proclaim hosannas, as Rayford comes by. Just that I do debate whether Jerry Jenkins having his Mary Sue (Buck)get martyred and get an awesome upgraded body for all eternity, whereas Rayford grows more decrepit as the millennial kingdom wears on, to be his form of revenge. As Fred points out, we do get more digs/insight into Rayford's character (aka Tim LaHaye's self-insert) than we ever do with Buck.
Speaking of Buck, the chapter closes with this exchange:
“Is it Buck?” Chaim said, his voice shaky.
“Yeah. Mac found his body in Jerusalem. He was torn up pretty bad.”
“I cannot believe Buck and Tsion are both dead,” Chaim said.
Lionel staggered away from the door. Both dead? He sprinted down the hillside to find Sam, praying for Judd and Vicki as he ran.
And now I'm wondering whether someone cut a scene where a character wiped a tear from his eye and said, "Truly that man was the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time." Try and tell me I'm exaggerating how much the characters of the LB-verse obsequiously worship Buck and Rayford, I dare you.
And that's it for this week. See you next time.
*I tried to track down the post where a wonderfully geeky Slacktivite actually did the math, taking into account the vastness of Russia's nuclear arsenal and from there, how much per square inch they used on a country the size of New Jersey, but I couldn't. Though given that in the LB-verse, Israel has swallowed up Jordan and Syria with nary a complaint from the citizens of either country, I'm not sure how big Israel is in the LB-verse, but it's not the size of New Jersey.