19 November 2010

Left Behind: The Remnant

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

Well, I just finished the tenth Left Behind book, The Remnant. There is a lot of action and a lot of plagues, and I'm pretty sure it's almost converted me into a dedicated Satanist. More on that last later.

The plot of the book is a very simple one for the most part: Chloe, Hannah, and Mac go to Greece to rescue someone. There are other people doing other things, but they're all minor bits of nothing: everyone else waits anxiously to hear from the people in Greece or witnesses miracles while flying around. All the major action and plot points are about this one raid.

The details are these: in the last book, a Trib Force guy named George(who we'd never heard of before) went to Greece to rescue a few other minor characters. But the Global Community killed the other characters and captured Sebastian. In The Remnant, the aforementioned trio of Chloe Williams, Hannah Palemoon, and Mac go to try to get him out. They are all disguised and heavily-armed.

There are a couple problems with the plan right from the start. For one thing, none of the three speak Greek. Not even a little Greek. Chloe's alias says she is from Montreal, but she has no French. And worst of all, Hannah is disguised as an Indian - even though she doesn't speak Indian. This would ordinarily seem to me like a red flag going into the operation, but I'm just a heathen, so what do I know.

A nearby man in a turban rose and said something quickly to Hannah in an Indian dialect. Chloe was stunned at how Hannah covered. She looked the man knowingly in the eye and winked at him, shaking her head slightly. This somehow satisfied him, and he sat.


Well anyway their basic plan is to dress up in GC uniforms, go to the mercenaries holding George, and try to order them to let him go. This is a good plan because... um...

"The American is alive?" Mrs. P. said.
Chloe nodded. "Being held somewhere. They're probably trying to break him for information, but he's well trained. We're more worried he will get himself killed for not cooperating."
"You must think the GC is stupid," Costas said.
"Sorry?" Chloe said.
"You come here disguised as GC and you think they will just take you to him."
"It's risky, we know."
"It's suicide," Costas said.

Well, I'm glad someone agrees with me.

Now, here's where things get weird in this book. Because if you've been following these, you know that we would expect at least one of the women to die. Women don't live long in these books. But that doesn't happen. Bizarrely, not a single woman dies in this book.

Even weirder, they seem to have realized a lot of other things are inane about these books. Halfway through the mission, someone at New Babylon realizes they've been hacked and uncovers the false GC identities of the Trib Force people in Greece. This removes what had previously been an overwhelming advantage for the believers, as they can no longer just order their enemies around when they please. It also means that the bad guys have noticed that no one actually nuked Chicago, the headquarters of the Tribulation Force.

"[S]omeone planted on the computer that the place had been nuked and would be radioactive for years. Akbar didn't remember it that way. He thought the city had been virtually destroyed, but not by nukes. Every time he had somebody check, they went straight to the database, checked the current levels, and said,`Yup, it's radioactive all right.' Not until recently did anybody check the archives to find out if the readings could be right. Of course, they can't. The place is clean."

So while the headquarters starts hopping on planes and talking on phones, the people in Greece are in trouble. As it turns out, the guy in custody (George) managed to escape without any help at all, kills his armed captor, and is on his way to leave the country. Meanwhile, the Trib Force rescue team accidentally leads the GC to the underground church in town, getting all the believers killed. Whoops! And when they botch their escape, they're just about to be captured when God sends Michael the archangel to rescue them.

Yes, once again, it's deus ex deus, and divine intervention is required to save the good guys from their own staggering stupidity.

So they escape successfully, having managed only to get a few dozen people killed, and everyone is happy.

"I need to meet this Michael someday," Chang said, after hearing the story. "You guys get all the fun."
"I could use a little less fun, frankly," Mac said. "And you might as well know, Sebastian here doesn't call him Michael anymore. Calls him Roger."
"Says he told him he assumed he was Michael, and the guy said, 'Roger."'

In the words of a great detective of yesteryear, wowzers.

After the main action happens, the book skips forward in time twice, advancing eight months. It's done in a choppy and terribly-paced manner, since it seems like they ran out of things to write about in that interval. But it does let them get to some more plagues.  And keeping with the strange theme of correcting some of the problems with the books, they actually go into them in some depth.  This makes sense: there's a LOT of plaguing going on.

If you remember, the oceans had been all turned to blood a while ago. This lasts six months, at which time the oceans turn normal but all the freshwater turns to blood instead. This is not very creative, but Revelations doesn't leave the authors much wiggle room. They scoot past it as fast as they can, mentioning only briefly how drinkable water is now enormously valuable. The most interesting consequence is that we learn that the Antichrist has apparently become actually and literally mentally retarded.

"This is about water, Excellency," Leon began. "Because you no longer need nourishment, including water, perhaps you don't understand-"
"Listen to me, Leon. There is water in food. Are you people not eating enough food?"

But all that isn't enough! Another judgment arrives, right on schedule. Yahweh is just tearing the hell out of the planet.

"But as the sun rose, they realized they heard very little noise from the street. Some ventured out and saw the damage from the sun. Everything is scorched, dried up, burned, melted, wasted. No one was on the street, though charred remains were scattered. The believers are protected, but the GC and the Carpathian loyalists cannot face the sun. ... A small faction of GC had apparently tried to use fireproof suits and boots and helmets to protect themselves from the enormous heat. They lasted long enough to travel about a hundred yards; then they split up as their suits caught fire. Piles of burning material are dotted here and there in the streets."

So now everyone who is not a believer dies if they go outside during the day.

The Tribulation Force was free to come and go, as long as they were careful to plan their travel into time zones that kept them in daylight as long as possible. The only relief for the Global Community forces and citizens with the mark of loyalty was to stay inside below ground level and invent ways to take the edge off the suffocating heat. Even then, hundreds of thousands died when their dwellings burned and fell in on them. Homes and buildings were largely allowed to burn themselves out, as firefighters could not venture out until well after dark.

Gee. However will the beleaguered underdogs of the Tribulation Force manage to survive against the fearsome Global Community? How will they struggle to get themselves into situations stupid enough to require divine intervention, if all they have to do is wait until sunrise?

But even THIS isn't enough! This judgment is lifted from those few lucky enough to survive it, only for a new one to arrive.

The new mood lasted three days. Then the lights went out.
Literally. Everything went dark. Not just the sun, but the moonalso, the stars, streetlamps, electric lights, car lights. Anything anywhere that ever emitted light was now dark. Nokeypads on telephones, no flashlights, nothing iridescent, nothing glow in the dark. Emergency lights, exit signs, firesigns, alarm signs everything. Pitch black.
The cliche of not being able to see one's hand in front of one's face? Now true. It mattered not what time of day it was; people could see nothing. Not their clocks, watches, not even fire,
matches, gas grills, electric grills. It was as if the light had done worse than go out; any vestige of it had been sucked from the universe. People screamed in terror, finding this the worst nightmare of their lives-- and they had many to choose from.
They were blind completely, utterly, totally, wholly unable to see anything but blackness twenty four hours a day.

God seems to be stacking the deck in favor of the protagonists a bit these days. And really-... wait, what? That's not the end, you say?

Within hours, though, something even stranger happened. People were not starving or dying of thirst. They were able to feel their way to food and drink. But they could not work. There was nothing to discuss, nothing to talk about but the cursed darkness. And for some reason, they also began to feel pain.
They itched and so they scratched. They ached and so they rubbed.
They cried out and scratched and rubbed some more. For many the pain grew so intense that all they could do was bend down and feel the ground to make sure there was no hole or stairwell to fall into and then collapse in a heap, writhing, scratching, seeking relief.
The longer it went, the worse it got, and now people swore and cursed God and chewed their tongues. They crawled about the corridors, looking for weapons, pleading with friends or even
strangers to kill them. Many killed themselves. The entire complex became an asylum of screams and moans and guttural wails, as these people became convinced that this, finally, was it the end of the world.

Okay, I officially am now rooting for the bad guys, the Global Community.

The population was decreased by something like a billion during the Rapture, and subsequently has suffered a worldwide earthquake, comet impact, massive waves of fire that burn up a third of everything, worldwide poisoning of water, and a dozen or so nuclear strikes during a world war. God dimmed the sun and moon by a third which led to waves of hunger and sent a plague of tiny monsters to attack all unbelievers. Then two hundred million magical horsemen appear and start killing people with their enormous snake tails, incinerating them with sulfur, and choking them with smoke. We are told in Assassins that the world population was half of what it had been after the Rapture. So that's about three billion people left at that point. Then all the oceans turn to blood for six months, followed by all the rivers and lakes, killing millions with thirst and disease. The GC tries to attack the Christians, but a massive earthquake wipes out half of their worldwide military force. And for a few months, any GC who steps outside dies, and many die even if they don't. And then they're all blinded and stricken with pain unto suicide.

So the GC have endured earthquakes, comets, waves of fire, poisoning, nukes, hunger, tiny monsters, magical murderous horsemen, disease, thirst, more earthquakes, burning, blindness, and pain. There's almost no level of villainy sufficient to convince a reader that God's not just kicking them while they're down.

Let me state the major problem coming starkly into focus when combined with the divine interventions: If the good guys have numerous advantages over the bad guys, and when God himself will swoop down and save the good guys from any mistakes, then there can't be any suspense. It just gets tedious.

So that's my major gripe with this book. Here are some random tidbits on other things.

"I confer upon you all the power vested in me from above and below the earth! I give you power to do great and mighty and wonderful and terrifying things, acts so splendiferous and phantasmagorical that no man can see them and not be persuaded that I am his god."

Why does the Great Enemy not have an ounce of dignity? How can we feel menaced by a villain with the same vocabulary as Mary Poppins?

More gun porn:

"Talk about huge. It looks massive!"
"Way too big to be carried internally, sir. It's four and a half feet in diameter and eleven feet long. The thing weighs fifteen thousand pounds."
"You do not say!"
"Oh, yes, sir. It's carried on what we call an underbelly centerline station."

So many sexual innuendos, so little time.

Nicolae empowers followers to help the masses.

While the atmosphere was still festive and the daily messages from both Tsion and Chaim inspiring, Rayford would not say Petra was entirely cocooned from the real world. The million there were reminded daily of the havoc wrought by Carpathia all over the globe. From everywhere came reports of miracles by thousands of deities who seemed loving, kind, inspiring, and dynamic. It was easy to watch them live on the internet, reattaching severed limbs, raising the dead, taking blood from the sea and turning it into water so pure and clear that many stepped forward to drink it without harm.

Yup, I'm on his side now.

"I proclaim Nicolae Carpathia, risen from the dead, as the one true god, worthy of worship, and the savior of mankind," Leon said. "He is the one who surfaced at the time of the greatest calamity in the history of the world and has pulled together the global community in peace and harmony and love. You claim Jesus of Nazareth as both the Son of God and one with God, which makes no sense and cannot be proven. This leaves you and your followers worshiping a man who was no doubt very spiritual, very bright, perhaps enlightened, but who is now dead. If he were alive and as all powerful as you say, I challenge him to strike me dead where I sit."

He makes a good point.

  • Annie - Dead.
  • Leah - Abrasive believing nurse. At high risk of death.
  • Hattie - Dead.
  • Verna - Dead.
  • Loretta - Dead.
  • Chloe - Annoying believing wife and daughter and "CEO" of a keep-her-busy trading company. Probably will not die.
  • Amanda - Dead.
  • Hannah Palemoon - Native American nurse and a believer. At very high risk of death.
  • Ming Tong - Chinese former prison guard. Told by Michael she will not die, which saves her but probably dooms either Hannah or her brother Chang.

  • 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. At very high risk of death.

1 comment:

  1. I see you resisted commenting that the "The new mood lasted three days..." paragraph reads like it was written by an 8 year old. It is perhaps one of the worst passages of prose I've ever read.