17 October 2010

Left Behind: Nicolae

Read all my reviews of the Left Behind books!
1. Left Behind, 2. Tribulation Force, 3. Nicolae, 4. Soul Harvest,
5. Apollyon, 6. Assassins, 7. The Indwelling, 8. The Mark,
9. Desecration, 10. The Remnant, 11. Armageddon,
12. The Glorious Appearing, and 13. Kingdom Come

People are behaving inexplicably!

Example: Earl is Rayford's boss at Pan-Con airline. More than a year ago, they had a series of arguments over Rayford's new religion: Earl thought Rayford was being a fanatic and that Nicolae Carpathia - the Antichrist - was great. Subsequently, Rayford became the pilot of Nicolae's new plane (Nicolae was bizarrely involved in staffing issues for his plane) and Earl drops out of the story for a while. We later find out that Earl has been working on a new kind of plane for Nicolae, called the Condor.

Okay, that's all good. But it turns out that Earl has installed a secret system on the intercom on the new plane so that the pilot can secretly listen in to anyone speaking in the cabin of the plane.

Earl had no interest in serving God, at least not yet, but whatever motivated him to do Rayford this favor, Rayford was glad.
Then immediately Earl is killed. It is never explained why a fan of the most powerful guy on the planet would risk his job and his life (not to mention the jobs and lives of the technicians who did the work) to install a spy system like this.

Another example: Rayford is flying the Antichrist's plane, and won't crash it. Even after Nicolae nukes most major American cities and slaughters millions. Why don't you kill the Antichrist, Rayford?

It wouldn't have bothered Rayford to crash and kill himself along with the Antichrist, but he didn't want to be responsible for innocent lives, particularly that of his own wife.
Is this really how anyone would think? The most evil human being who will ever live - a man you know for certain has murdered millions of people and will continue to do so, a man who is the paragon of all that is evil - and you won't crash the plane? I'm sorry to Godwin this here, but if Hitler was on a plane the eve of Kristalnacht, and I knew the future, I would willingly die if he would die as well, and I like to think any of my good friends or girlfriend would agree. Crash that sucker - at least make Satan work for it.

And the action scenes!

"When we get to whatever roadblock they have for us at the airport, we have to make a quick decision. I need you to pour all those gas containers into the one big water bucket, the one that's wide open at the top. I'll have the cigarette lighter hot and ready to go. ... I'm going to pull the wheel hard to the left and slam on the brakes. That will make the back end swing around into the roadblock and anything loose will slide to the back door. You must put that bucket of gasoline in the aisle about eight feet from the back door, and when I give you the signal, toss that cigarette lighter into it. It needs to be just enough ahead of the collision so it's burning before we hit."

"I do not understand! How will we escape that?"

"If the roadblock is impenetrable, it's our only hope! When that back door blows open and that burning gasoline flies out, we have to be hanging on up here with all our might so we don't get thrown back into it. While they're concentrating on the fire, we jump out the front and run toward the jet. Got it?"
Just read that plan, and treasure it. Hold it to your heart, and cradle it. It is too precious a thing to just dismiss by pointing out that a bucket of gasoline does not sit and burn quietly but explodes into flames, or asking why the bucket will magically fly straight out onto the bad guys instead of just sloshing burning gasoline all over them. No, this is a special kind of stupid that must be nurtured and cherished, for this is the Worst Fucking Plan Ever. Mark your memory, for you will not see its like.

Of course, it works. But even the authors admit this is only because God is suspending all common sense and physical laws. Yahweh's probably up there going, "Really, guys? That's your plan? You can't make it a little easier on me?" There's probably all kinds of paperwork associated with dropping the laws of fluid dynamics.

Another thing that's unfortunate with Left Behind is the misogyny of these books. I'd been letting it slide, since I'm generally suspicious of such claims, but it's as plain as the nose on your face by this third book. There are only a few female characters, and they're all stereotypical idiots or relegated to background roles.
  • Hattie - This flight attendant is fooled by the Antichrist, and becomes his secretary and eventually his fiancĂ©. She is painted as a naive idiot who takes great pleasure in petty games. Around her, there's a whole lot of "Rayford smiled tolerantly." and "Buck sighed. If only she knew." Eventually she sees the light, of course, so I expect she will accordingly become a much more minor character, since in these books Christian women are usually neither seen nor heard.
  • Chloe - This is the biggest female character, and the daughter of one of the protagonists, Rayford Steele. She is a pseudo-feminist, in the sense that she has the attitudes of an awkward caricature. She doesn't want to clean or so any other typical woman stuff, she announces stand-offishly. She soon converts to Christianity and marries the other protagonist, Buck. At that moment, she ceases to be a character and becomes an accessory - someone for Buck and Rayford to worry about and take care of.
  • Loretta - An older woman in the church, she's just happy to be of service. And she says "y'all." Earthy!
  • Verna - A horribly stereotyped "female boss," she is vicious and spiteful in her treatment of Buck. Buck magnanimously avoids humiliating her, and eventually she converts to being nice in the face of a tragedy. She ceases to be a person immediately.
  • Amanda - Rayford's new wife. She is a smile and a name, and nothing more. About her only act of independent thought is to be indignant that the Antichrist pretends not to know her name. She admits her pride and Rayford laughs with her indulgently.
The writing continues to be terrible, with the best of it coming during the evangelical parts. This makes sense. There is real and deep feeling behind the parts about the burden of being Christian and how much God loves us. Alas, those are the only parts with feeling or art to them.

"I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your sacrifice, for your protection. I appreciate also your sympathy and your prayers. This is very hard for me. In my flesh, I would rather not go on. Part of me very much wants to die and to be with my wife and children. Only the grace of God sustains me. Only he keeps me from wanting to avenge their deaths at any price. I foresee for myself long, lonely days and nights of dark despair. My faith is immovable and unshakable, and for that I can only thank the Lord. I feel called to continue to try to serve him, even in my grief. I do not know why he has allowed this, and I do not know how much longer he will give me to preach and teach the gospel of Christ. But something deep within me tells me that he would not have uniquely prepared me my whole life and then allowed me this second chance and used me to proclaim to the world that Jesus is Messiah unless he had more use for me."

Three down. Ten more to go! Yeah, that's right: there are thirteen of these goddamn books. Yeesh.

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