23 November 2010

Left Behind: Armageddon

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

Whoa! Things are really heating up in this eleventh book in the series: as the final battle goes down, we don't get just the ordinary woman-killing - they kill off annoying Chloe herself, as well as husband Buck! And it ends on a cliffhanger! Will Jesus show up and save the day or will the authors turn out to have been malicious Buddhists all along?

Unfortunately, Revelations is pretty explicit, so things get silly on the way. These books are way better when the authors can concentrate on their strong points of describing planes, guns, and detailed phone conversations that include dull parables. The ideal scenario would be for Rayford have a long discussion about a new plane that is made of guns and can make long-distance calls. And then Jesus bursts in on a red motorcycle, and the Antichrist - who is dressed exactly like Richard Dawkins - poops himself. Yeah... sweet.

What actually happens is that Chloe is captured because she is being an idiot, and then is executed. Meanwhile, Nicolae gathers all military forces in the world into one big army that is many millions strong, and then a third of them attack Petra (where most believers are holed up) and the rest attack Jerusalem, which is defended by a few remaining Jews. And in the midst of the attacks, the book ends.

All right, so there are a lot of problems. A lot. There are more problems than words in the book, which is some kind of feat of legerdemain.

First of all, let's address Chloe's capture. She and her husband and a couple other people are in a basement. There's a periscope to look for enemies. One night Chloe sees some enemies, and so she decides to go alone into the night to check it out, without telling anyone or bringing her phone. Even she realizes this is stupid.

That training was what niggled at the back of her brain now and told her she was making a fundamental mistake. Not only was she away from her post, but no one would have a clue where she was.

Let's not forget that in the last book she got a bunch of people killed, or that help is literally just in the next room. But whatever. She goes outside, and they catch her immediately. They take her to a prison, where they proceed with the most lackluster torture I have ever heard of.

Firstly: they don't let her eat for an entire day! Such cruelty can scarcely be borne.  I had to pause while reading it a few times - American Psycho has nothing on this gruesome torture.

Chloe had not eaten since seven o'clock the night before. She drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her shins. She rocked, trying to ease the pain in her stomach.

What further hells can she be put through? Will they cut her open? Burn her with hot coals?

"I see," Chloe said, as the woman followed her. "Snatched from my family, starved, drugged, flown half-way across the country, injected with truth serum, and held in solitary confinement overnight is your idea of fair treatment?"

My God! How can-... wait, what? That's it?

Yes, that's it. She doesn't get to eat for a day, they sedate her when transferring her to another prison, use sodium pentathol on her (five questions!), and lock her up at night. That's how badly the forces of the Antichrist torture the only member of the Tribulation Force they will ever capture. They don't cut her or bruise her. They don't even waterboard her! George W. Bush treats his prisoners worse than the Antichrist!

"She's been a tough bird, hasn't she?"
"Tell me about it, Jess. I'd have been doing the 'Halle-lujah Chorus' solo by now."
"What if she doesn't flip? How long do you give it?"
"If you can't get to 'em somehow in the first forty-eight hours, more of the same isn't going to be any more effective."
"Starvation isn't a motivator?"
"Would be for me, but I guess they've proved it with prisoners of war. The ones who can survive that first round of psychological and physical torture aren't likely to ever break, no matter how long you keep it up."

I don't actually have sufficient exclamation points to express my incredulity, but here are some more in an attempt to show you my disgust: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, whatever.

So anyway Chloe is tough and withstands all of their attacks thanks to divine intervention (an angel stops the truth serum from working), and maintains her defiant attitude. I might argue that when an angel is personally helping you and reassuring you, it's maybe not quite so heroic as all that. But whatever. And hey, did you remember that Chloe was attending Stanford before the Rapture? You might have forgotten, since she's astonishingly stupid, but watch her prove it with some poetry.

Chloe hurt all over, but she was glad she had made them work. Someone else could go gently into that good, good night of death. Not her.

Ah, there we go. Such an organic allusion. I barely even noticed it. Subtle.

So anyway she gives a speech, and then she is beheaded. Everyone is sad for like two whole chapters.

But there's war to get to! Nicolae is going to wipe out all the Jews left in Jerusalem with his millions of troops. He uses a lot of rhetoric that somehow mirrors a historical figure with whom you might be acquainted. Some guy who also hated the Jews, and not Mel Gibson.

"To his people he is referring to the meetings with the subpotentates, however, as the final solution to the Jewish problem."
"To a German, that has to resonate with your history books, eh, Mr. Weser?"


When the Global Community army attacks Jerusalem, the Jews manage to hold them off in places. This is strange.

Let's note that Jerusalem's population at its peak was never a million people, and with the loss of over half the people it's now much less than that. And they're almost all unarmed.

The Global Community has an army of millions. They have assault rifles, rocket launchers, helicopters, jets, tanks, and missiles. But what is their plan of attack?

Rebels, some shooting over their shoulders, ran past him for their lives, but Buck noticed the GC were not firing. They were moving in a colossal battering ram that looked as if it would make short work of the Wailing Wall. Now that was a tragedy. After millennia of prayer, could such a sacred site be wasted in just moments?
Suddenly, all those rebels who had flooded past Buck turned and came back. Shouts resounded: "Not the Wailing Wall!" "Not the Wall!" "Sacrifice yourselves!" "Fight to the death!"
The word spread throughout the Jewish Quarter and into the center of the Old City, and instantly
hundreds became thousands. Buck joined the fray. They charged the GC, shooting, throwing rocks,
fighting hand to hand. The rebels overcame those on the battering ram and turned it back toward the Dung Gate.
As more and more rebels joined, at least for that brief skirmish, the Jews had the Unity Army on the run. They pushed the battering ram up to the Dung Gate, chased out the army, and managed to shut the gate with the ram inside. Great cheers rose, and so, it seemed, did the rebellion's confidence. Someone assigned a large group to guard the gate, while others were sent to the Golden and Lion's Gates on the east side.

I can see it now. It's dusk, the night before the attack on Jerusalem, and Nicolae Carpathia, mastermind of the endtimes and Antichrist, is meeting with his generals. They suggest that five squadrons of bombers and attack jets could strafe the city and reduce most of it to rubble, with their efforts complemented by several missiles and mortar fire. Or if Nicolae wants to keep the city intact, they could easily flood it with nerve gas - they have millions of barrels of it. Or perhaps they should just send in fireteams with heavy machine guns and sniper support. But none of this satisfies the Dark One, who has a more sinister plan.

"You are all fools," he says quietly, his voice thick with malignancy. "There is only one way to wipe out this threat and destroy their holy places."

The generals lean in, mouths agape and eyes shining. Their leader slams down his fist with leaden surety, and states coldly, "Bring a large piece of wood, and hit the wall with it a lot."

Silence. Then cheers.

The main action of the book stops at this point, and we have to wait until the next one to discover whether or not all the good guys die.

In addition to the above major insanities, there are lots of little mistakes. For example, the authors appear to continually forget that all those loyal to Nicolae have biochips under their skin, which are intended to make them easy to scan and identify. In The Mark much ado is made about how no one can buy or sell without the chip, and how easy it is to use it to keep track of them. But whoops! The bad guys always need to see the tattoo!

"Then there ought to be a -6 [tattooed] somewhere under that blood. Get a wet cloth and wash that off."

It turns out you just need a hat.

She rarely stayed long, and since the Woo crew all had ID tags and company caps riding low on their foreheads, they were never carefully checked, and the job went smoothly.

Another silly problem is that the authors keep forgetting that not everyone in the world speaks English. And this isn't a thing where they're actually speaking their native tongue and it's translated for us. This is a thing where the authors are stupid. That kind of thing.

There are the usual mistakes in language and bizarre choices of phrasing. For example, see what this commando says about a scouting mission:

"Yes, sir, but that is not all entirely good news. Observing their direction and relative speed, we were able to flank them, and the two of my party on their south side had enough flora-and-fauna coverage to get close enough to hear them."

Flora-and-fauna coverage? Were you hiding behind a lizard, sport?

Anyway, remember that big problem from previous books, where the authors would gloss over enormous events and dwell with excruciating length on trivial events? A plague of boils afflicts the entire planet and is recounted in a sentence, while Chloe looking for her phone consumes eight chapters?

We are given the worst example imaginable this time around.

Here, in its entirety, is the description of the destruction of New Babylon, capital of the world and headquarters to the Antichrist. This is the whole passage - the preceding and following sections are on completely different matters. This is the total about the event.

When they landed at the palace, he found it eerie. The place was no longer dark, but the wounded souls within the boundaries didn't know what to make of it. They had been in pain and darkness for so long they were disoriented and still hadn't found their bearings. Most still limped and staggered around.

But waiting for the planes of refuge were more than one hundred and fifty believers, cheering their arrival. They carried their belongings in sacks and boxes and were eager to get aboard, which made the whole process quick and easy. Mac and Lionel had their planes loaded and turned around and headed down the runways when two invading armies attacked.

Before Mac was even out of New Babylon airspace, black smoke billowed into the heavens. He circled the area for an hour, and Lionel followed, as their charges watched the utter destruction of the once great city. Within those sixty minutes every building was leveled, and Mac knew that every resident was slaughtered. When the mysterious armies who had invaded from the north and northwest pulled out, they left the entire metropolis aflame. By the time Mac turned toward Petra, the only thing left of New Babylon was ash and smoke.

It's never mentioned again. In five sentences a major plot point occurs and is immediately forgotten.

Last but not least, there's the half-hearted attempts at philosophy that crop up.

Rayford knew the prophecy - that people would reject God enough times that God would harden their hearts and they wouldn't be able to choose him even if they wanted to. But knowing it didn't mean Rayford understood it. And it certainly didn't mean he had to like it. He couldn't make it compute with the God he knew, the loving and merciful one who seemed to look for ways to welcome everyone into heaven, not keep them out.

This is in reference to Revelations, which was itself referencing Exodus 10:20 ("But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.")

The explanation given is a pretty simple one: Rayford is told that God has a plan. God's plan is apparently to be a big jerk.

  • Annie - Dead.
  • Leah - Abrasive believing nurse. At high risk of death.
  • Hattie - Dead.
  • Verna - Dead.
  • Loretta - Dead.
  • Chloe - Dead!
  • Amanda - Dead.
  • Hannah Palemoon - Native American nurse and a believer. At high risk of death.
  • Ming Tong - Chinese former prison guard. Will not die.

  • Donny Moore - Dead techie.
  • Ken Ritz - Dead techie.
  • David Hassid - Dead techie.
  • Zeke - Alive techie somewhere in America. At high risk of death.
  • Chang Wong - Alive techie somewhere out there. Low risk of death.

Two more to go! Jesus save me!

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