NRA: Pilot on the River Kwai

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 69-71

The task of a double-agent is to appear completely loyal while being actively disloyal.

So, for example, if you were ever to find yourself posing as an accomplice of a mass-murdering embodiment of evil while secretly working for the forces of good, you would want to do everything you could to reassure your psychopath boss that you supported him while doing everything possible to disrupt, delay, expose, undermine, sabotage, subvert or otherwise foil his plans. That’s the job.

Rayford Steele gets this exactly backwards.

“What have I done?” asked someone other than Rayford Steele.

Rayford is serving as the personal pilot of the Antichrist. Nicolae Carpathia needs a good pilot to carry out his murderous schemes, and Rayford has proven to be just the guy for the job. We readers know that in his heart,* Rayford despises Nicolae and everything he stands for, yet day after day, he assists the Antichrist by dutifully fulfilling every task he is called on to perform.

Rayford does not seem to enjoy doing this, but his lack of enthusiasm has not affected his performance in any way. When it comes to providing everything Nicolae needs from his personal pilot, Rayford has done exactly what any fully devoted servant of the Antichrist would have done.

That was bad enough earlier in the story, when Nicolae’s agenda consisted mainly of weirdly arbitrary steps, like building a global capital in the Iraqi desert or unifying the world’s currency. But at this point in the story, the evil mastermind has finally gotten around to acting like an evil mastermind — nuking dozens of cities and slaughtering millions of people.

Rayford hasn’t done a single thing to try to stop him. Worse than that, Rayford has assisted and enabled this slaughter.

The authors do not seem to think that this makes Rayford culpable for the mass-death they’re now describing, but I don’t see any way to avoid that conclusion. Nicolae is killing people. Rayford is helping him.

This isn’t one of those spy-thriller scenarios in which the hero has to participate in some small degree of evil in order to protect his cover so that he will later be able to prevent something even worse. Rayford isn’t participating in Nicolae’s plans in order to protect his cover — he’s just blindly carrying out every order he is given. In any case, considering the mass-murder that Nicolae is carrying out at this moment in the story, it’s hard to imagine a more urgent time for Rayford to intervene.

Rayford reminds me a bit of Alec Guinness’ character in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Col. Nicholson is the commander of British forces in a World War II Japanese POW camp. When the prisoners are ordered to build a bridge for the Japanese military, Nicholson goes mad and sets about to build the greatest bridge they have ever seen.

Yet both Rayford and the authors seem to imagine that he’s William Holden, the counterpoint to Guinness’ character who parachutes in to dynamite the enemy’s beautiful new bridge. They inexplicably think that Rayford’s loyal service is somehow heroic. In their eyes, he’s a courageous “Tribulation Force” soldier infiltrating the inner-circle of the Antichrist.

They seem to have forgotten that infiltrating the super-villain’s lair is only the first step. The hero also has to do something once he gets there — something other than faithfully serve the super-villain as an efficient and effective assistant.

Chapter 4 of Nicolae begins with a half-page vignette in which Nicolae prepares to broadcast to the world he’s busily bombing into oblivion.

At the sound of a knock on the cockpit door, Rayford shut off the hidden button and turned expectantly. It was a Carpathia aide. …

Odd. The last chapter made it very clear that there were only nine people on this plane: Rayford, Amanda, the copilot, Nicolae, Fortunato, and four “ambassadors.” Now suddenly Nicolae has a whole staff of people on board with him.

… It was a Carpathia aide. “Do whatever you have to do to shut down all interference and patch us back through to Dallas. We go live on satellite in about three minutes, and the potentate should be able to be heard everywhere in the world.”

Yippee, Rayford thought.

Again, Rayford is supposed to be a double-agent. The task of a double-agent is to appear completely loyal while being actively disloyal. But here, and throughout these books, Rayford is completely loyal while appearing disloyal.

Rayford mutters and grumbles. He’s rude and sarcastic. But he always comes through when Nicolae needs him.

“Shut down all interference and patch us back through to Dallas,” the aide says. And Rayford shuts down all interference and patches them back through to Dallas. It does not matter to Nicolae that he does so while muttering sarcastically to himself. Nor does it matter to the millions of people that Nicolae is killing. Rayford’s muttering does not make them any less dead.

In a better novel, I would worry that Rayford’s abrasiveness and open dislike for his boss would risk blowing his cover as a Tribulation Force secret agent. But that hardly matters here, since without any subversive mission or agenda, he’s not really much of a secret agent. Plus it seems implausible at this point that he still has a cover to be blown. Rayford doesn’t bother to hide his contempt for Nicolae, and the Antichrist already knows that Rayford is a Christian convert. I imagine Nicolae knows all about the Tribulation Force and just doesn’t care.

If anything, the Antichrist is probably disappointed that the Tribulation Force isn’t larger. They supply some of his most loyal and capable employees.

The “Yippee” bit, I’m guessing, is meant to make Rayford look “cool.” It echoes the earlier scene in which Rayford wises off to the soldier on the highway, or that wretched business with Buck making faces behind Verna Zee’s back when she was his boss.

I think Jerry Jenkins watched a lot of 1980s comedies — stuff with Bill Murray or Chevy Chase — and latched onto a glimmer of an idea that sarcastic insubordination is the key to making your hero funny and likable. Alas, Jenkins hasn’t quite grasped why such rebellious characters are funny. (Hint: They’re rebellious because they actually rebel.) And he proves utterly unable to imitate the thing he’s trying to mimic here.

The problem isn’t just that Rayford’s smirking commentary lacks any wit or originality. The bigger problem is that cracking wise may be appropriate when, say, the boss orders everyone to work through lunch, but it seems monstrously inadequate as the only expression of rebellion when the boss is ordering you to participate in the killing of millions of people.

Look back at, say, Stripes, Fletch and Caddyshack, and you’ll notice that one common thread running through all those movies is that they never ask us to like a character who is willingly complicit in genocide.

Meanwhile, Buck and Verna Zee are rather nonchalantly reacting to the destruction of Chicago.

Buck was on the phone with Loretta when Verna Zee slipped behind the wheel. She slung her oversized bag onto the seat behind her, then had trouble fastening her seat belt, she was shaking so. Buck shut off the phone. “Verna, are you all right? I just talked with a woman from our church who has a room and private bath for you.”

I’m not sure how to respond to this little section. On the one hand, Buck’s behavior to Verna in this scene is uncharacteristically decent. Just consider that sentence: “Buck shut off the phone.” That’s the most selfless act we’ve ever seen from him.

It is good of Buck, here, to overcome his instinctive misogyny and dislike for Verna and to begin treating her like a fellow human being, a refugee who just lost her home in the war. He goes out of his way here to be nice to her — literally going out of his way, as he arranges for her to stay at Loretta’s, then rides there with her instead of heading off directly to try to find his wife who, you’ll recall, may be dead for all he knows.

I want to enjoy Buck’s surprising kindness, but his lack of urgency following Chloe’s crash — “… he heard an explosion, tires squealing, a scream, and silence” — makes this scene frustrating. This leisurely reaction to the “huge aerial attack on the city of Chicago” seems to be shared by the rest of the Global Weekly staff:

A mini traffic jam dissipated as Verna and Buck’s coworkers wended their way out of the small parking lot.

Wending does not seem like an appropriate response to the sudden arrival of World War III. People should be rushing off to rescue loved ones, to collect supplies, to fill bath tubs, to “flee to the mountains” without turning back to get a coat.

Buck and Verna exchange apologies as they wend their way toward Loretta’s house in Mount Prospect. Eventually, to pass the time on their commute, Buck mentions something about Chloe perhaps lying bleeding on some highway.

Buck told her of his urgency to locate a vehicle and try to find Chloe.

“Cameron! You must be frantic!”

“Frankly, I am.”

She tells him to take her car, and then, to convey just how frankly frantic he is, Buck says:

“I’ll let you lend me your car, but let’s get you settled first.”

“You may not have a minute to spare.”

“All I can do is trust God at this point,” Buck said.

Jenkins doesn’t mention it, but I imagine Buck has been silently praying for Chloe all this time. “Lord, I’ll let you save Chloe. I’ll deign to allow you to do that for me, God …”

Having learned of Chloe’s plight, Verna shows more urgency in this scene than Buck:

She sped to the edge of Mt. Prospect and slid up to the curb in front of Loretta’s beautiful, rambling, old home. Verna did not allow Buck to even take the time to make introductions. She said, “We all know who each other is, so let’s let Cameron get going.”

She tells Buck to keep her phone as long as he needs it, and Buck takes the wheel all set to race off to rescue his wife:

Buck pushed the driver’s seat all the way back and adjusted the mirror.

Well, OK, safety first. You don’t want to race off on your high-speed rescue mission with the mirrors improperly adjusted. But now he’s all set to race off to find Chloe:

He punched in the number he’s been given for Nicolae Carpathia and tried to return that call. …

He doesn’t get through to Nicolae, but rest assured, as soon as he finishes that phone call, he does, eventually, race off “toward the only route he could imagine Chloe taking to escape Chicago.”

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* “The Lord seeth not as man seeth,” 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

For many evangelicals, that verse has gotten mingled with the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith and not by works to produce the notion that what we do is always less important than what’s “in our heart.” Actions don’t matter. Consequences matter even less. The crucial concern is always intent — having a “good heart.”

I’d guess that this is part of what Rayford’s sarcastic “Yippee” remark is meant to show us. Sure, he may be serving the Antichrist and co-operating in Nicolae’s mass-murder, but in his heart he opposes all of it.

I wrote about this sentimental “good heart” idea a long way back, when then-President Bush was praising Vladimir Putin’s “good heart”:

This approach also explains why evangelicals — including George W. Bush — can get so angry and aggressively personal in any political or ethical dispute. If you believe that the only (or at least the primary) reason you hold political opinion X is because you love Jesus, then you will also come to believe that anyone holding opinion Not-X must therefore not love Jesus. Thus evangelicals who disagree will quickly move to accusing one another of not loving Jesus, which — for an evangelical — is about the worst thing anybody can accuse you of (except, of course, for homosexuality or voting for Clinton).

This is what prompts President Bush’s angry indignation when any initiative or position of his administration is questioned. He interprets all such questions as challenges to the Goodness of his Heart. Thus his response is usually to angrily reassert that he has a Good Heart, without ever responding to — or hearing and considering — the substance of the critique.

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  • Tofu_Killer

    I love friday. Just for this.

  • Starsinger17

    If you accept that Turbo Jesus requires every little detail to be 100% correct before beginning His roaring rampage of revenge, the Tribulation Force can be looked at as tragic figures unhappily assisting the AntiChrist so God’s plan can go through. If you then pretend God’s plan isn’t reprehensible, then it becomes interesting and certainly better than these books. If.

  • carovee

    I thought Verna was awesome in the last book but she just keeps getting better and better.  It’s hard to believe she came from the mind of Jenkins.  Even if his intention is for everyone to laugh at her and put her in her place, her actual character is the best of the bunch.

  • hidden_urchin

    The last place I encountered ” yippee” was in a movie that shouldn’t exist.

    And the main character was nine.

    I shall now see Rayford as a hotshot pilot who eventually gets sucked in by the evil emperor and turns to the Dark Side.

    Wait a second…

  • Ymfon Tviergh


  • mistformsquirrel

     Does that make Buck Jar Jar? >.>

  • aunursa

    So we have Rayford as Anakin Skywalker.  And we have Rayford as Alec Guiness decades before Obi Wan.

    To complete the circle, I’ll repeat my observation from a previous LB thread: that Left Behind makes more sense if I consider it via the Spaceballs universe.

  • mistformsquirrel

     Oh gods lol… that paints *quite* the image aunursa.

  • Invisible Neutrino


  • walden

    I suppose another reference point should be another Bill Murray movie — Meatballs.  The campers have been encouraged to engage in a camp-wide competition- the “color wars”.   Murray’s camp counselor character teaches his misfits a phrase that L&J’s heros must have internalized: “It just doesn’t matter.”

    Great use of the River Kwai analog.  Of course Col. Nicolson (1) had a reason to be crazy after being locked in “the box” for a month, (2) actually did have concern for the men under his immediate command, and (3) couldn’t make dozens of phone calls.

  • LouisDoench

     One of my favorite movie scenes!

  • Tricksterson

    Watching that I get the feeling that the people in the background weren’t supposed to be cracking up but couldn’t help themselves.  I probably couldn’t have either.

  • Tricksterson

    The Japanese didn’t allow their prisoners to make phone calls??  THOSE MONSTERS!!!

  • Mordicai

    “Buck pushed the driver’s seat all the way back and adjusted the mirror.”

    DAMES, I tell yah, with their statistically shorter heights, sheesh, amirite?

  • Lliira

    Jerry Jenkins is one of those people who likes to make women itty bitty while his men are gargantuan. Lynn Johnston and Stephenie Meyer are also big on this. When they think and write of women and men, they aren’t thinking of real heights on real people. They’re thinking of the heights and general sizes of toddlers vs. (male) basketball players.

    It’s creepy and wrong and it is, of course, not the way humans are built. We are not gorillas. Female and male human beings are actually pretty much the same size, the statistical differences between our sizes are extremely small, and it is very common for any given woman to be taller than any given man. 

    Also, I’ve never ridden with anyone so tall that they had to slam the driver’s seat all the way back, and my father’s over 6 feet tall, as is his girlfriend. Is Buck supposed to be 6’10 or something?

  • PandaRosa

    I’m sorry, but who are you to even dare to question the dichotomy that the LAWD himself decreed, that the mere female dare try to compete to the perfection of the GLAWrious Male? Facts be damned, this is the LAWD’s decree.

  • D Johnston

     I don’t remember their exact heights, but both Buck and Rayford are around 6.5 feet tall. This is a Tim LaHaye special – male leads in his books are always at least 6’4″. Other men are shorter – it’s his not-so-subtle way of showing off how macho his characters are.

    The height difference seems to be a cultural trope. In a lot of romantic stories and art, the man is a head taller than the woman. That requires a pretty striking difference in height, one that’s a bit odd in real life. Seriously, I was six inches taller than my last girlfriend, and there was no way she could get her head under my chin while we were both standing.

  • Joshua

     I don’t remember their exact heights, but both Buck and Rayford are around 6.5 feet tall. This is a Tim LaHaye special – male leads in his books are always at least 6’4″.

    For consistent and detailed worldbuilding, you’d have them constantly banging their heads into things and never being able to fit. This bit is the first time it’s been mention in Fred’s quotes, I wonder if there are others in non-quoted sections.

  • Lliira

    I’ve been trying to think of the number of people I’ve actually known in my life who were 6’4 or over. I’m from Michigan. When I moved to New York City, everyone looked short. Then I moved to Florida, and people continue to look short. 

    So what I’m saying is, I lived the first 25 years of my life around tall people. Maybe it’s the Germanic-Scandanavian ancestry, maybe it’s the large amounts of dairy and exercise, I dunno. But anyway, I can only think of two people I’ve ever known who were that tall. 

    Is Tim LaHaye particularly tall? I can forgive this quirk of his more readily if it’s a self-insert thing than if it’s about how manly men should all be incredibly tall.

  • Joshua

    I lived the first 25 years of my life around tall people. Maybe it’s the Germanic-Scandanavian ancestry

    Could be that. One of the first things I did when I went to Germany was buy a leather jacket – it being winter, and a winter that New Zealand clothes shops just don’t cater for. I was surprised how easy it was to find one to fit me. I usually can never get long enough arms. Northern Europeans are just tall, on average.

    In New Zealand, I have been into shoe shops and told that they do not have a single pair of any sort in my size. Even when they do, my choice tends to be limited. Currently, my two pairs of work shoes are both steel-capped boots. I work as a computer programmer in an office.

    I knew a guy who was 6’6 once.

  • Randy Owens

    I knew a guy who was 6’6[“] once.

    Oh?  What happened to him?

  • Joshua

    I lost touch with him about ten years ago. I guess you could say I still know him, but I don’t have any idea what city he might live in now, what job he might be in, or what.

    I guess from your question you were hoping for something a little more interesting than that. So, sorry about that I guess.

  • Randy Owens

    Umm, sorry, that was another joke.  As in, he was 6’6″, what happened to him so that he’s shorter now?  Yeah, not exactly some of my best material.

  • NelC

     I got it, though I was wondering if he grew rather than shrank.

  • Tapetum

     My family runs very tall – not quite basketball tall, but still very tall. I’m so used to men being tall that I once got in trouble for describing my husband as average height to a friend. He’s 6’6″.

  • Ruby_Tea

    LaHaye doesn’t look particularly tall to me.  Jenkins looks like he might be quite tall.

    ALL of his “heroes” are tall.  Ray-Gun is 6’4″.  Michael Murphy of the Babylon Rising series is 6’3″.  So is Paul Stepola of the Underground Zealot series.  I don’t remember how tall Joshua Jordan is, but I’m sure Invisible Neutrino could tell you, and I’m sure it’s damn tall. 

    I figure he just thinks that it would be impossible for readers to see “manly” if the hero was 5’8″ or something.  The same way a hero could never be bald or fat or bespectacled.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Eheheh. My first thought in connection with ‘six-foot-four man’ is the only guy I’ve ever met who’s that tall; he is not, or he was not when I knew him, what one might call an exemplar of the kyriarchal definition of masculinity. By which I mean, the two-word description of him is ‘teddy bear’. (The third word would be ‘geeky’, the fourth ‘fuckwit’, and any further words would describe the political positions he holds that explain why we broke up in the early stages of Obama v Clinton v McCain.)

    Also LaHaye has clearly never read Harry Potter.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Also LaHaye has clearly never read Harry Potter.

    Or the Lord of the Rings books.

    (Actually, even if he read any of HP or LotR, he would probably just figure they were of Satan.)

  • depizan

    ALL of his “heroes” are tall.

    While I’ve run across plenty of authors who have “types” of heroes, I honestly can’t think of any others who insist on not just tall, but quite tall heroes.  If they were all 6′, it would probably pass without notice, but the further over 6′ they are, the more the audience’s eyebrows go up.  Especially when they aren’t written as tall.

    I mean, I do actually know several guys over 6′ (none of whom would be acceptable LaHaeroes due to being atheists, or fat, or wearing glasses, or several of the above), but that doesn’t make it any more common in the general population.  And once you hit 6’2-6’3 or so, you start having trouble finding clothing, and sometimes run into other difficulties depending on your body proportions.*  Ray and Buck never – at least in what’s excerpted – seem to have any issues. They’re just randomly TALL.

    *Which is another thing that doesn’t seem to have been considered.  People aren’t all proportioned the same.  My parents only have to adjust their car seats by one click, despite one being 5’5 and the other 5’11.  Similarly, I once rode a rollercoaster with those solid over the shoulder restraint thingies – which, when clicked into place, actually touched my shoulders, while the guy I was riding with had an inch or so of space.  Even though I’m 5’5 and he’s 6′ and it was the same restraint fitting over both of us.

  • Lliira

    While I’ve run across plenty of authors who have “types” of heroes, I honestly can’t think of any others who insist on not just tall, but quite tall heroes.

    Yes, this.

    And as for romance novels, yes, a majority of those heroes are “tall”, but it’s a far smaller majority than people are assuming. Also, they are very rarely really, really tall, as 6’4 is. You can’t go by covers, book covers are nonsense 95% of the time, and more nonsense with romance novels than other genres. Most romance novelists don’t give height measurements anyway, beyond medium, tall, and short, unless it is actually important to characterization. Because most romance novelists are competent writers. The dismissal of romance novels is entirely unfair.  

  • Carstonio

    The two romance novels I’ve read, both historical, seemed to have a fair amount of pandering. The woman was described as more desirable than her rival, in both appearance and personality, as if the writers made the sexist assumption that the readers were catty. But that pales next to the action genre’s pandering using machismo and xenophobia, or to Ellanjay’s pandering to the persecuted hegemon mentality.

  • Daughter

     Pointing out that romance heroes tend to be tall isn’t a dismissal of romance novels, nor does it make any statement about the quality of such novels overall. I was just noting that given how common tall heroes are in fiction overall, this is probably a very minor flaw in set of horrifically flawed books.

  • Daughter

     I’m surrounded by tall people. My dad and his brother were both 6′. They each have one son, both of whom are 6’2″. My husband’s dad was 6’3″, his brothers are 6’3″ and 6’5″, and hubby is 6’6″. One of his cousins is 6’10”. Several women in both our families are between 5’11” and 6’1″.

    I’m 5’7″. I’m pretty sure my daughter, 4’5″ at age 7, will hit 6 feet.

    But regarding L&J, their tall heroes are probably the least of their writing flaws. Tall (6’+) heroes are a common trope in everything from romance novels to spy thrillers.

  • P J Evans

     There may be some variations because of personal definitions of ‘tall’. Mine is anyone over about 5 ft 8 – but that’s because my father’s family is generally less than that. My mothers family runs to 6-foot men, but not that much over.

    People as tall as LaHaeroes tend to spend a lot of time ducking solid objects, or being asked to retrieve stuff from the top shelves in cupboards.

  • Joshua

    Or just bashing their heads on things. I bash my head on low door lintels more often than I like. I seem to have a hard skull.

    True about top shelves. And lightbulbs.

  • Lori


    But regarding L&J, their tall heroes are probably the least of their
    writing flaws. Tall (6’+) heroes are a common trope in everything from
    romance novels to spy thrillers.   

    This is true and often cracks me up when it’s just ridiculously OTT or not very true to life. For example, I’m unconvinced that there’s ever been a fictional SEAL less the 6’2″. IRL they’re almost all shorter than that. I think the average is between 5’9″ and 5’11”. Being very tall has some serious disadvantages for them, both in training and on the job, so to speak. Obviously some of them are quite tall and at least one guy managed to get in even though he actually exceeded the height limit, but it’s not the norm.

    It’s also not the norm for the male half of a m/f couple to be a full head taller than his lady love, but I see that all the time in books and I find it at least mildly annoying. It’s such a lazy cliche that reenforces stereotypical gender roles in a way that I find endlessly frustrating. Plus I’m pretty tall for a woman so I’m not a fan of the implication that desirable = short. (To be clear, I’m fine with short some of the time, but when I find myself on a multi-book streak of delicate little flower heroines I start to develop a twitch.)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I actually kind of like the idea of equal or almost equal-height couples in fiction. Trying to imagine the mechanics of hugging gets a lot harder when you work out how a woman who’s like 5 foot 8 is supposed to be able to kiss a 6 foot 3 man without him crouching or her standing on her very tippytippytoes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Speaking as a 5’6″ woman who once dated a 6’4″ man: stepstool or chair, or be sitting or reclining instead of standing. Your point is quite valid nonetheless.

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    *Glances at the ‘Allo Allo’ boxset*

  • Guest

    My husband has at least twelve inches of height over me. He bends over a lot for the kissing. Or I stand on the second stair from the bottom.

  • depizan

    I prefer similar height couples in fiction, too.  But I tend to like things that mess with more sexist tropes, and the whole size difference thing (especially when huge) feels like it’s playing into the men (manly men!) and women (cute, tiny things) are different thinking.

    (Not that I’d side-eye a work of fiction just for having a tiny woman and a big guy, of course.  For one thing, there are couples like that in real life.)

    What I do side-eye is when a fictional couple has a huge difference in height and we never hear how they deal with the height difference.  I don’t really want to be reading a kissing scene and wondering if she’s gained the ability to hover.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     5 foot 8? Pfff. Try 5 foot 1 kissing 6 foot 2. I find it helpful to stand on the bottom step of the stairs – makes us a lot closer to the same height. And yes, if there are no stairs handy, tippytoes (and probably crouching, but that’s not my side of the probelm) are required.

  • Jenora Feuer

     Yes, my parents were 5’1″ and 6’0″… and my 6’0″ father was the shortest of three brothers.  They went through some of that.  Then there was me in the middle.  I used to get annoyed because my mother had hung a pot of Martha Washingtons from the ceiling near the exit to the deck; she was short enough to walk under it, my father was tall enough that he could see it, and I was the only one who kept banging my head on it because it was just above eye level to me.

    On the other hand, my 6’3″ old landlord used to hate coming down into the basement of the house because there was one radiator pipe running across below ceiling level that he would always bang his head on because it was below the top of his head but just barely above eye level.  There’s still a towel wrapped around that pipe to this day.

  • mistformsquirrel

    Being 6’1″ tall myself, I totally understand the whole “bashing head into things” thing I think it’s particularly bad for me because like you mention with the hung pot… most things are just high enough to be not eye level, but just low enough I’m still going to bang my head on them >.< So there's this relatively low-hanging chandelier in the middle of the  room and invariably I'd bash my head on it.

    That only stopped when she started hanging a plastic flower from it so that I have some sort of signal "There's something there, walk around!

  • Jenora Feuer

     Yes, well I’m only 5’9″ and I was still banging my head into things… because my 5’1″ mother had limits to how high she could easily set up things like hanging pots.  Really it’s more an issue of relative height to the other people around you than absolute height, for the most part.

  • mistformsquirrel

    Fair point that >,<

  • Kiba

    Ha. I’m about the same height as you and I live with my grandmother who’s about 5’1.” I usually get called her medical monkey because I’m usually the one responsible for the hanging of things, pulling things from the upper cupboards/shelves, and what have you.

    Around here the thing I usually smack my head on is the light fixture of the ceiling fan >.< 

  • Lliira

    Trying to imagine the mechanics of hugging gets a lot harder when you work out how a woman who’s like 5 foot 8 is supposed to be able to kiss a 6 foot 3 man without him crouching or her standing on her very tippytippytoes.

    It’s not at all difficult. It involves him crouching a tiny bit and her stretching a little bit.

    I’m 5’8 and one of those men I knew who was over 6’4 was a man I dated. Not a bit of a problem.

  • Tapetum

     Isn’t that hard. My husband and I do it all the time (5’8″ and 6’6″). He bends at the neck and shoulders and I tip my head back and stand tall. Works fine.

    My favorite couple for height differential has to be Miles Vorkosigan and Ekaterin, though. She’s tall (5′ 10ish?) and he’s under 5′. So many things taken for granted in romance turned topsy-turvy with that one fact.

  • Tricksteron

    Don’t forget he had a Friends With Benefits relationship with Taura who was what, around eight feet tall?

  • Tapetum

    I love Miles’ comment to Roic, when the latter is considering romancing Taura about how making love to her is like being “mugged by a goddess in the dark”. Miles plainly sees being physically outmatched by his love interests as not a turn-off in the least, and Lois, bless her, manages to convincingly have Roic come to the same conclusion, despite Roic being a conventionally strapping, strong young man, who would normally be the big, strong one in a romance.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Personally, I like dating guys who are close to my own height–less neck crick while kissing. That said, there have been some big height discrepancies in my family–my dad has almost eight inches on my mom, one grandfather had almost a full foot on his wife.

    What really gets me is that the height of a LaJenkinsian hero is so important, and it is pretty much the only concrete physical descriptor we usually get. What color are Rayford’s eyes? What does Michael Murphy’s hair look like–color, style? No way I could tell you, but I know they’re really tall. Really makes me wonder if LaHaye was teased by the other boys for his height when he was a kid.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Even worse is that Kirk Cameron plays Buck in the movies, so I’ve pictured him as normal-sized male (with blond locks and smarmy smile), not 6+. I mean 6 ft. = 1.80 m is already big for a guy compared to a normal-sized 1.65 m (5ft 6in) woman, although more Americans seem to be 6ft. than Europeans (non-representative sample).

    Esp. if Buck is supposed to be young – he’s 10 years older than Chloe, right, so in his mid-30s? (Though he thinks as if he’s her father…)

    Most men under 40 aren’t that tall, they get another spurt late. The college-aged guys through mid-20s and late-20s are all normal size and rather thin, and small-shouldered, from what I see.

  • aunursa

    Esp. if Buck is supposed to be young – he’s 10 years older than Chloe, right, so in his mid-30s?

    At the beginning of Left Behind, Buck is 30 and Chloe is 20.  It’s now about 19 months later, so he is 31 or 32.

  • Daughter

     An over 40 growth spurt? I’ve never heard of such a thing (unless it’s weight, not height).

  • Joshua

    Also, I’ve never ridden with anyone so tall that they had to slam the driver’s seat all the way back, and my father’s over 6 feet tall, as is his girlfriend. Is Buck supposed to be 6’10 or something?

    I have to do that on most cars that I have driven. On many of them, my head is pressed firmly onto the ceiling.

    ‘Course, round here you get Japanese cars, not American ones. I’m about 6’3″.

  • P J Evans

    > “Buck pushed the driver’s seat all the way back and adjusted the mirror.”
    > DAMES, I tell yah, with their statistically shorter heights, sheesh, amirite?

    I’d like to give him the car that my father rebuilt the body on. Fixed seats, set for a maximum height of about 5 foot 4. (Buck couldn’t drive it anyway. Stick shift with no synchromesh.)

  • Mordicai

    To be honest with you, I could in no way shape or form dive that car, neither!

  • Lliira

    I could drive the stick shift, but would have to seriously scrunch up to fit in the driver’s seat. 

  • P J Evans

     They guy who bought it from my mother, after my father died, said later he had a heckuva time getting that front seat moved back. (I think my father used glue as well as mechanical fasteners.)

  • Jon Frater

    I don’t disagree with comparing Rayford to Alec Guinness’ character per se, but I will merely point to the end of that amazing flick and say, no frickn’ way would Rayford Steele come to such a dignified and productive end.

  • D Johnston

    Okay, some odd characterization here. Ray appears to be the embodiment of another misused trope – we’ll call it the “Doomed Lackey.” This is the character who’s working for the villains, but not of his own free will. Sometimes the Big Bad Guy has something tangible over him – blackmail, or threats against his loved ones – but it’s usually something more personal. Maybe he’s oathbound, or is convinced that the Bad Guy is going to win and just wants to minimize the impact. He’s usually older than the leads, often with some military background (the aged war hero, the last knight of the old order, etc), and generally acts like he would welcome death. In the end, he’s given a chance to redeem himself, usually through a heroic sacrifice.

    Ray would fit that archetype perfectly, were it not for the fact that he’s meant to be a hero (even though he works for the villain) and it’s clear that he’s not making any sacrifices. Plus, he really has no good reason to keep working for Nicolae. So I guess he’s really not that much like the Doomed Lackey after all.

    Meanwhile, Buck seems like he’s been replaced with a character from another novel. I feel like Jenkins is going for some sort of “duty vs. devotion” angle like you’d see in a military thriller, fantasy or even some romances. Unfortunately, his “duty” makes no sense here, and there’s no way that a single decent act is going to erase hundreds of pages of Buck’s selfish behavior. It’s too little, too late.

  • walden

     Rayford as the “doomed lackey”:

    Wait, are you saying that RAYFORD = RENFIELD?
    Then Carpathia is the Count.
    Chloe is Mina Harker  (I think Fred actually suggested this awhile ago)
    Who is Van Helsing? – is it the prizewinning scientist who apparently (as some have hinted) comes up with a sharper than sharp blade with which to attack the count (sorry, the “potentate”)?

    I’ve been reading this deconstruction for about five years now on slacktivist (maybe more), and only now do I learn that this is a fan-fic of Dracula!??

  • Susan Paxton

    Maybe Van Helsing is Tsion? He kind of talks like him… Looking forward to a “King Laugh” scene.

  • chris the cynic

    So I’ve had Verna and Loretta working together for the past two episodes (one, two) and had Cameron head out to try to find Chloe in the second of those.  And possibly had Rayford relieved of duty before he could crash the plane. Still not sure if that’s canon.

    All of which… leaves me with absolutely nothing to say.

  • Lliira

    “I’ll let you lend me your car”

    I wish I wasn’t on painkillers that make me not able to drink alcohol. Someone go have a drink for me. That’s the only response I can think of to that line. 

  • Invisible Neutrino


    *tries to parse*

    let.. you… lend… me…

    So Buck wants to make a grab for Verna’s car but wants to frame it so he can look like the magnanimous bestower of favors when it’s really Verna doing him a favor.

    Ah, Buck. Just when you might possibly be less of a douchebag, you return straight back to Home Base.

  • Mark Z.

    I wish I wasn’t on painkillers that make me not able to drink alcohol. Someone go have a drink for me.

    I’ll let you buy me a drink so I can drink it for you.

  • D Johnston

     With all due respect, I think that line was meant as a joke. You know, you run into someone you haven’t seen in ages and say something like “I’ll let you buy me a drink.” It’s not meant literally.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Jenkins has a real frickin’ tin ear for jokes, then.

  • Lliira


    This is Jerry Jenkins. “With all due respect”, giving him or his characters who are supposed to be good guys any credit is giving them way too much credit. You have to twist yourself into a knot to do it, too. How on earth could that line be like “I’ll let you buy me a drink”? Buck’s wife may be a sodden heap of blood and bone on some freeway, the city these people are in is being bombed, it’s a car, not a drink, and this is Jerry Jenkins.

    Jerry Jenkins’ idea of a joke is a big strong manly man making faces behind an uppity woman. It would take Reed Richards to stretch far enough to make the “I’ll let you lend me your car” line in this context coming out of Buck Williams’ mouth a joke, and even he would sprain something.

  • Charity Brighton

     It’s such a good line, too. It almost seems as if Jenkins wants the reader to think that Buck is an arrogant jerk, and he’s trying to convey that in the most heavy-handed manner possible. I can imagine Buck giving Verna his used kleenex and “letting” her throw it away for him… as long as she gives him a small gratuity for the privilege. It’s just so over-the-top. Would even a real-life asshole say something like that?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That’s a very apt comparison, actually. Only the thing is, even Nicholson eventually comes to his senses and realizes his solipsistic quest for perfection as exemplified by the abstract ideal of the best bridge of all bridges has crashed into the horrible reality that he was doing it for the wrong side.

    Even Rayford never seems to have this level of self-awareness. He doesn’t even employ any basic level of circumspection! He’s like that guy in Edge of Apocalypse, Atta Zimler. He’s simply the wrong person for the wrong job.

    You don’t send someone who loves killing (Zimler) to do what is essentially an espionage snatch and grab job (someone with skills at moving about undetected, hiding in the shadows, and computer penetration and data retrieval).

    You don’t send a mulish, grumpy, openly surly person (Rayford) to do what is a double agent’s job. You send the quietest, level-headed person who is capable of the emotional and logical calculus to decide when enough is enough and bail out. Frankly, you’d send someone like Chloe or, again from Edge of Apocalypse, Deborah Jordan (Cal might work too actually :P ).

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    You don’t send someone who loves killing (Zimler) to do what is
    essentially an espionage snatch and grab job (someone with skills at
    moving about undetected, hiding in the shadows, and computer penetration
    and data retrieval).

    I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Crouch and Vandemar repeatedly complain that they are professional killers, and are not in the business of making sure people are Not Killed, after their employer (apparently) changes his mind about how to deal with one of the protagonists and decides he wants her lured into his trap, not killed. Crouch and Vandemar are decidedly the Wrong Guys For The Job.

  • MaryKaye

    Redcloak in _The Order of the Stick_ is my favorite Doomed Lackey.  By the time you figure out why he’s helping the Big Bad Guy you can genuinely sympathize, but not agree–a fine line to walk.

  • mistformsquirrel

      Someone else reads OOTS eh?  Awesomesauce.

  • LouisDoench

     At this point in the story the question becomes who is the villain and who is the doomed lackey? Redcloak seems to have Xykon thoroughly hoodwinked at the moment.

  • Vermic

    It amuses me to imagine a version of the New Testament in which Jesus never does any preaching or miracles, he just goes around sarcastically rolling his eyes at the Romans until he dies of old age.

  • Tofu_Killer

     John 18
    33 So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence, summoned Jesus,
    and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 Jesus replied, “WHATEVEAH!”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It amuses me to imagine a version of the New Testament in which Jesus never does any preaching or miracles, he just goes around sarcastically rolling his eyes at the Romans until he dies of old age.

    Why do you think the Gospels skip over his teenage years?

  • Magic_Cracker

    At least the Nazis stuck with “I was following my commander’s orders,” period. Not, “Yeah, I followed those orders, but it’s not like I liked it! What kind of horrible person do you think I am? And anyway, who are you to judge me? You’re not even Christian for goodness sake, and you’re going to lecture me on morals? I don’t think so!  And it’s not like I could have stopped any of it. It was all part of God’s plan anyway! Why do you hate God so much? Huh? Huh?”

  • Chris Doggett

    “Cameron! You must be frantic!”
    “Frankly, I am.”


    Once again, we’re pulled into the Momento-verse where no one remembers things from five minutes ago. Verna, Buck tried to kick a door into you ten minutes ago, and that was before bombs started dropping. 

    As for Buck’s response… responding to a line like that is a perfect opportunity to show the reader Buck’s character, to let us see how he reacts when he’s worried. Does he deflect talk and focus on duty, stoically? Does he sneer, snap, or snarl with sarcasm at such a statement of the blindingly obvious? Does he wilt, shrinking down with the knowledge that he impotent against megatons of military explosives? 

    But Jenkins isn’t a show-er, he’s a tell-er. Besides which, Buck isn’t really a character as much as an author-insert. As has been discussed before, author-inserts don’t get to have feelings or thoughts included in the story, because the author already knows what the character is thinking/feeling (he’s feeling it himself!) so writing it seems unnecessary. 

    So instead, we get Jenkin’s tin ear for hu-man speech. 

  • CE

    Every time I read about the Tribs being inept at espionage, I have Michael Weston narrating in my head on how NOT to do spy work. Then again, him, Fiona, and Sam could take out the Antichrist without breaking a sweat.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Sheeeit. By the time those three were done with him, Carpethia’d be begging for the Lake of Fire.

  • firefall


  • Ethan Johnson

    Sure, it’s changed a bit since I actually lived there, but… one does not simply “speed up to the edge of Mount Prospect.” Do L&J think that MP is an actual… mountain? Surrounded by a curb?

  • Magic_Cracker

    My friend Philip and I recently ran a Cthulhu LARP wherein the players had to infiltrate a cult to act as moles/double agents. The weekend-long LARP was actually preceded by months of cryptic communiques using book codes, required reading from hideous tomes, and strange and repulsive tasks to prove their bona fides to the cult. Every step of the way the player-characters had to ride that line of participation to prove ones loyalty why being covertly actively disruptive. They were very smart about it.

    For instance: They had to swear a blood-oath to the Lord of Rot in a cemetery on the new moon, which the players went ahead and did — but they crossed their fingers. (We rolled some dice and determined that the Lord of Rot noticed the oath but not the finger-crossing,) The next task task required that they examine mutant fetus (in realty, a pleasantly disgusting sculpture)  and a grotesque painting by a madman, of course, that the cult believed were omens and report back with their interpretation. Their interpretation was: “The Lord of Rot is on his way, but they way is not clear. We have sworn our oaths and He trusts our service, as should you.” Pretty clever, we thought.On the weekend of the LARP proper, they had a number of tasks: shoplifting an ancient tome, collecting material ingredients for the ritual from dead-drops, etc. Each step of the way, they new they were helping the cult, but they also knew that by collecting these items, they would then have the ability to disrupt the ritual if they did it just right.

    When the time came, and it was apparent that Shit’s Going Down*, they stopped the ritual and prevented the Lord of Rot from entering this world. Not only that, but they had come up with a means to imprison Him in an object and banish that object to another dimension. If Buck and Ray had been our players, ghouls would currently be feasting on a seven-billion-person buffet.

    *We played a dirty trick on them. There was no cult, or rather, THEY were the cult, and Philip was in fact possessed by a evil wizard the whole time, manipulating them into doing all of the dirty work of preparing and performing the ritual in the name of stopping it.

  • PandaRosa

    All together now:
    CoMET, it makes your teeth so green,
    CoMET, it smells like gas-o-line,
    Comet, it makes you voMIT,
    So get some Co-MET, and vo-MIT, to-DAY!

    Now tell me this is not jingling thru a few heads now.

  • J Neo Marvin

    I am of the age where are I need is a passing reference to Bridge Over The River Kwai and that becomes an earworm for the rest of the day.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’ve got We Didn’t Start the Fire. I’m not sure that’s an improvement.

  • mistformsquirrel
  • P J Evans

     Actually, I’m earwormed by this one:
    WINNERS warm up with Malt-O-Meal!
    WINNERS warm up with Malt-O-Meal!

  • mcc

    “Buck was on the phone with Loretta when Verna Zee slipped behind the wheel. She slung her oversized bag onto the seat behind her”

    “Oversized bag”. It kind of seems in places like their attempts to repeatedly apply [what the authors seem to think of as?!] lesbian stereotypes to Verna Zee wind up giving her more characterization detail than some of these books’ main characters. I look at that and I can immediately imagine what Verna’s handbag looks like. It’s patterned with a cacophony of muted colors, and there’s probably beadwork on it.

  • Magic_Cracker

    And really, can any bag really be considered “oversized” when WWIII is happening all around you? After all: Este paratus!

  • mcc

    I’m thinking more that it’s the bag she carries to work every day, which reveals another unintentional thing about Cameron’s / Jenkins’s mindset. What does “oversized” mean? If Jenkins is writing, it probably means “bigger than an average purse”. In other words, it means “the size of a briefcase”. In other words, her bag is the size it is because Verna is carrying around a laptop computer and a bunch of paperwork, just like Buck has been previously shown to! Except when Buck does it it isn’t really treated as exceptional..

  • Jenora Feuer

     Carpe Diem!  Et aliis.
    (Seize the day!  And all else.)

  • Charity Brighton

    It might be an actual quiltbag. 

  • Sue White

    “Cameron! You must be frantic!”“Frankly, I am.”

    Why yes, frankly, I detect that I am experiencing the emotion that you Earthlings call “frantic”.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Why yes, frankly, I detect that I am experiencing the emotion that you Earthlings call “frantic”.

    “Processing… processing… elevated breathing, elevated heart-rate– processing… processing… perspiration of the underarms, hands, eye sockets… processing… malfunction in salivary sector, drymouth drymouth… Why yes Verna, I am quite upset, it’s a wonder that you hu-mans are even functional at this poi— ERROR ERROR UNCONTROLLED EMOTION SURFACING: IDENTIFY! IDENTIFY! EMPATHY —  ERROR ERROR REBOOT runmagicwords.exe … But, you know, whatevs.”

    “Uh, are you okay, Buck?”

    “Shut up, Verna, you ignorant slut!”

  • Sue White

    “We go live on satellite in about three minutes, and the potentate should be able to be heard everywhere in the world.”
    Yippee, Rayford thought.

    Yippee, here’s my chance to get the word out!  If the potentate can be heard all over the world, so can I! 

    Way to blow another perfect opportunity, dumbass.

  • Beleester

    The line about adjusting the mirrors seemed like another bit of mindless padding, but it struck me that it could have been a nice bit of color (as usual, if done by a better writer).  It’s a problem that everyone’s had – you start driving, glance in the mirror, realize it needs adjusting, and then you have to fumble with it with one hand on the wheel.  Then it gets twice as complicated when you have to fiddle with the little switches to adjust the side mirrors, and you have to keep taking your eyes off the road to check the mirrors and it makes your morning commute a bit more eventful than you’d like.

    Now imagine Buck doing that at 100 miles per hour as he weaves through traffic.  A bit more exciting, no?  Fumbling with the mirrors and his seat belt could have been a great way to show panic, if Buck had been doing that during his drive.

  • Tricksterson

    From La Jenkins viewpoint though there’s no reson for Buck to rush because niothing he does will make any difference.  it’s all in the hands of God as to whether or not Chloe lives or dies.  Inshallah as it were.

  • reynard61

    “I think Jerry Jenkins watched a lot of 1980s comedies — stuff with Bill Murray or Chevy Chase — and latched onto a glimmer of an idea that sarcastic insubordination is the key to making your hero funny and likable.”

    I find it hard to imagine — let alone believe — that JJ would deign to watch *anything* with a pair of counter-culture icons like Murray or Chase in them. My guess is that JJ’s sense of humor — assuming that he even has one — never matured beyond the 1950s suburban sensibilities of Father Knows Best. (I mean, just look at that *title!!!* It absolutely *screams* Patriarchy!) Whereas, as you point out, Murray and Chase were — and, to a certain extent, still are — about Rebellion. (And gross-out humor…but that’s a commentary for another time…)

  • Basil

    One should point out that sadly the default position for so many in politics and religion these days is to think that the reason why anyone disagrees with you is quite simply because that person is evil. Mr. Blair, who was never an Evangelical during his term as Prime Minister and fairly rapidly became a Roman Catholic after leaving office, seems to have held this position. It seems that the good old idea that a person could be sincerely mistaken is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. May I make a plea for the true tolerance that holds that a person may be intellectually wrong without being morally evil?

  • mistformsquirrel

     I’d argue this depends on what they’re wrong about, how that wrongness affects other people, and if they can be educated away from said wrongness.

    Sadly in the US we have a lot of people who are not merely wrong, but gleefully delight in the fact that what they are wrong about inflicts suffering on others.  That… strikes me as pretty evil.

  • LouisDoench

    Of course no one thinks themselves morally evil.  We human monkeys are experts at rationalization.  Sure, no one sees themselves as a mustache twirling villain.  But some people are villains and it is the least of our duties to be free to point them out unequivocally. 

  • Tricksterson

    Yes, you may but we’re going to burn you at the stake for it.

  • Will Hennessy

    I was kinda wondering when we’d get to Bridge on the River Kwai. What with Alec Guinness’ amazing acting, the parallels to Rayford (except for the ultimate realization of his complacency, naturally), and even the fact that, in spite of his consorting with the enemy, Nicholson manages to be an incredibly sympathetic character.

    The whole thing has me marching along, whistling a tune…

    “Cameron… has only GOT ONE BALL…
    Rayford’s… are very VERY SMALL…”

  • Mrs Grimble

     ….”Verna’s… are getting BIGGER…
    “And Loretta’s…got more than…THEM ALL…”

  • Ken

    Another tiny difference between Rayford and Col. Nicholson is that Rayford is never going to stop and say, “My God. What have I done?”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    As I said on the previous page. :P

  • Tobasco da Gama

    You know, I can think of another pilot who shouted “Yippee!” (or close enough to it) while the plane he was on precipitated a nuclear holocaust. We weren’t supposed to think he was a good guy, though.

    And, frankly, Major T.J. “King” Kong was a lot more likeable than Rayford and his actions much more justifiable than Capt. Steele’s.

  • Nirrti

    When I read this post, the first person that came to mind was Oscar Schindler. He pretended he was making weapons for the Nazi regime and ostensibly employed over a thousand Jews, saving them from the death camps.

    Some say he was just an opportunist taking advantage of “free” labor. Yet he managed to not only save a number of Polish Jews but made sure none of the weapons from his factory were ever used in battle.

    The Left Behind characters are supposedly using subterfuge to thwart the Anti-Christ and exemplary of Christ-like behavior.  Yet these fools don’t even have the integrity or courage of a Nazi-era businessman.

  • veejayem

    Did you ever read Thomas Kenneally’s book about Schindler? I kept getting the weird feeling that Schindler wanted people to love him and acquired a literally captive audience. I’m not saying that this was ever Schindler’s conscious intention but that was how it came acroos.

    And the film scene where Schindler got the women and children out of Auschwitz was like watching someone walk into Hell and bargain with the devil. Now THAT is what Rayford’s scenes with Carpathia should be like.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    So, for example, if you were ever to find yourself posing as an accomplice of a mass-murdering embodiment of evil while secretly working for the forces of good, you would want to do everything you could to reassure your psychopath boss that you supported him while doing everything possible to disrupt, delay, expose, undermine, sabotage, subvert or otherwise foil his plans. That’s the job.

    This immediately made me think of (WARNING, massive MASSIVE spoilers for a 12 year old game) Vampire: the Masquerade – Redemption, a computer RPG set in the old World of Darkness. In the final dungeon, you discover a huge infodump that reveals how the Distressed Damsel of the plot, Anezka, is actually more of the real hero of the story than your own character, Christof.

    While Christof has been doing the bloody, violent work of chopping his way through Big Bad Vukodlak’s minions and support network, interrupted by nearly a thousand years of undead slumber, Anezka has been spending that whole time manipulating Vukodlak and circumstances as the perfect double agent. She was kept alive all that time by a magical blood bond to Vukodlak, exposed to countless horrors that would have broken a weaker will, and managed to not only win his confidence but turn him against his greatest supporters. She spent a thousand years making an ancient vampire chase his own tail in fear, one powerful enough to spit on any Antichrist that LaJenkins could dream up.

    Anezka is, in fact, the reason why someone like your character could come along and cut through the opposition without being utterly obliterated. The villain had nothing but useless toadies left, put there by a “weak” woman. And, let me repeat, she pulled this off for nearly a thousand years and could have kept going if she had to. And this game is only a moderately decent Diablo clone.

    It’s staggering just how outmatched LaJenkins are even by the most basic plots in old pretendy funtime games, and yet they made so much more money in their not-even-mediocrity.

  • SisterCoyote

    I can’t get over how much of a better person Verna is than Buck. She comes off as so selfless in this scene – Buck just got finished verbally abusing her for no reason, he kicked a door shut in her face, he’s just been treating her like crap since she was introduced, for no apparent reason, and she shows more concern for his wife than he does, lends him her car, and is just generally unselfish, even rather… Christian.

    Contrasted with Buck… I wonder if Ellenjay realize how clear of a tale this tells?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    You’d almost think they were portraying those evil ho-mo-sex-uals sympathetically. :P

  • SisterCoyote

     I know! I keep forgetting that selfless actions actually don’t mean anything at all in the Left Behind universe’s black-and-white view…

    Faith =/= Works
    Faith = Salvation

    Works =/= Salvation
    Damnation =/= Salvation

    Works = Damnation.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: A little bit closer than last week.*

    *I’m visiting tonight and left my book at home.  And I am too lazy to hunt down last week’s post and do math.**


  • Invisible Neutrino

    277 pages, Ruby :)

  • Ruby_Tea

    Booyah.  :D

  • Tricksterson

    Off topic Ruby, do you take requests?  Because once you’re done your review of Ararat, may I suggest checking out and reviwing James Beauseigneur’s Christ Clone Trilogy.  A bonus for yo would be that, for Christian lit it’s actually pretty damn good.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve got dibs on that. :P I’m gonna do a side by side with Left Behind. :P

  • Ruby_Tea

    Cool–it all works out! 

    By the way, I was thinking that if anyone wanted to get in on the whole fun reviewing-Chriatian-fiction game, you could do worse than LaJenkins’ new(ish) series, The Jesus Chronicles.  Watching them try to portray life in Biblical times is awesome.

  • Randy Owens

    I dunno.  It seems to me that the not-so-bad stuff can’t be as much, umm, “fun” to review as the really God-awful (or awful-God) stuff like she or he and Fred have been covering.

  • Ruby_Tea

    I’ve heard good things about Christ Clone Trilogy.  I’m definitely going to read it at some point, but I think the vote for my next book after The Secret on Ararat will be between 1) the next Babylon Rising book, 2) the next Underground Zealot book, or 3) the apocalyptic Christian novel my brother gave me expressly for the blog, that I don’t have the title for because I’m still not home.  :)

    Also, today or tomorrow, the vote for my Wintermas review is going up.  Because the War on Christmas starts earlier every year! 

  • Deni zen

     Don’t read the Christ Clone series. It’s far better written than Left Behind, so it’s leaps in logic are even more apparent. The tribulation that the Christian God enacts is so horrifically sadistic that it will give you nightmares, and in the end the characters are supposed to love this God without any reason, and anyone who is rebellion against this God is a “whore”. I guess the author forgot that people who were parents that lost children to the tribulation and would be understanably enraged. No, they’re just whores. The Anti-christ is basically just doing it for the evils, and stands to gain nothing. The root cause of inflicting massive amounts of death and destruction on the whole world? The New Age moment. Apparently God thought looking at horoscopes and respecting nature are crimes worth devastating continents over. At no point in the series does God do anything good, he just inflicts needless horrors and death on the world, while the Antichrist spends the entire series uniting the world and healing people and then does a little bit of genocide at the very, very end. It’s a very confused novel series.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The first two books really make you wonder if the alternate interpretation created by Beauseigneur could possibly be right, then the third yanks you safely back to orthodox Christian Revelation interpretation.

  • Jessica_R

    See I’m imagining a scuffed up leather satchel. Something she picked up on a trip to Paris when she graduated from J school. Or something that had belonged to her father, or her grandmother’s messenger bag that Grandma used to deliver the mail in a tiny Illinois hamlet in. 

    Grandma Elise encouraged Verna to apply to North Western, and pretty much raised her after her mother died and her dad threw himself into work. Verna remembers Grandma always pulling a bottle of pop and a pack of peanut butter crackers out it for a snack when they’d go see a movie on Saturdays. She still remembers seeing All The Presidents Men for the first time, she knew she wanted to grow up to be a journalist right then and there. 

  • Lliira

    I envisioned the bag as a beautifully appliquéd thing, because one of my aunts carries around HUGE bags, and she appliqués them beautifully.

  • mistformsquirrel

    And since we’re talking about songs stuck in our heads… I have The Irish Volunteer stuck in my head at the moment; but not that long ago it was a slightly modified version of the sea shanty “Santy Anno”.

    Don’t ask me how I got into sea shanties and Civil War music, because I really don’t understand it myself either; but I did and now it gets stuck in my head as readily as heavy metal.  Moreso anymore really. >.>

  • KarenH.

    It occurs to me that Rayford’s “rebellion” might actually be that he does every single thing the Anti-Christ tells him, but he does it with a resentful heart. Which is crazy-cakes, but let me tell you about a woman I once knew.

    Back when my son was a young and often surly teen, this woman had come to my house for a visit. My son was grousing loudly in the bathroom, because prior to this woman’s arrival, he had requested permission to attend a movie with his friends, and I told him he could if he got the npbathroom cleaned first.

    Being 13, he felt this was an inequitable arrangement. I think he may have even called it extortion :). But, bad tempered as he was, he WAS still cleaning the bathroom. And it should be noted, he did a nice job of it, too.

    This woman was a conservative Christian, which I knew, but she was far more so than I understood and she was horrified that I was going to let John go to the movies in light of his “open rebellion.”

    “Open rebellion?” i asked. “I said he had to clean the bathroom, and he’s cleaning the bathroom.”

    “but he’s doing it with an angry, resentful heart.”

    “i don’t care how he does it, as long as the bathroom gets clean.”

    The conversation continued for several more rounds of “but angry! Rebellion!” “Clean bathroom!” until it became obvious that neither would ever get the other’s viewpoint. Our friendship kind of petered out after that, too–in large part because she could deal with my “unbelief” (we met at church).

    In the years since, I’ve become more and more aware of this notion that it’s allegedly not enough to obey your parents, you have to be actively happy about it or what you’re doing doesn’t count.

    So, rayford is a big rebellious hero, not because he ever disobeys Carpathia, but because he’s surly about it.

  • mistformsquirrel

     And that right there is a small part of why I loathe ‘Christian’ parenting.  IE: Spank the shit out of your kids whenever they do anything the least bit ‘rebellious’.  (With ‘rebellious’ being defined VERY broadly.)

    It’s a great way to make your children resent and fear you… not so much the love and respect thing; and it definitely won’t do them any favors.  (Especially if it turns out later they had ADD the whole damn time and their ‘rebellion’ was mostly just rampant distraction.)

    I’ll stop ranting there so I don’t write 10 pages of comment.  Suffice to say I remain bitter 14 years after the fact.

  • flat

    well my parents are christian, and they didn’t beat the crap out of us for no reason, so I will still say that they are good Christian parents.

  • PandaRosa

    (sing-song voice) Unh-unh-unh, you can’t say that! If they DIDN’t beat the crap out of you. then they WEREN”T Good Christian Parents! Case closed.
    The sad thing is that to many Xians, this isn’t a joke.

  • mistformsquirrel

     There’s a reason I put Christiain in scare quotes.  I don’t believe that’s how the religion is *meant* to be followed… but it is how it often is in the US I’m afraid.

  • Lliira

    When I go down into the ground at last, as God is my judge, I pray my best-beloved may have better to say of me than “he didn’t hit me.”

    ~Miles in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Komarr

  • Lliira

    John Brown disciplined his sons the same way pretty much everyone disciplined their sons in those days, with a birch switch. Untraditionally, he would write down what he had done wrong as well, and have them whip him for it. Because he knew absolutely everyone was equal in God’s eyes, and therefore it would be a sin to do unto someone else what you would not be willing for them to do unto you. 

  • KarenH.

     I’m really sorry that you were parented that way.  When I have Christians telling me that a rebellious heart basically nullifies actually doing what God (or parents) want out of us, I ask them to reread Jonah.  (A book that I love, btw, because Jonah reminds me so much of a surly teenager–and I admit, I kind of have a fondness for them.)

  • mistformsquirrel

    That is a good point there; about Jonah.  Fred’s talked about that many times – not in that specific context but it certainly does get the point across doesn’t it?

  • Dmoore970

    Isn’t there something about that in the Bible.  That Jesus tells the parable of a man with two sons.  He calls on both of them to work in his vinyards.  The first one says no, but goes ahead and does it.  The second says yes but never shows up.  Jesus asks which of them was obedient.  The answer is so self-evident as to be absurd.

  • Daughter

     I always related to that parable, because I was the kid who groused but who usually did what my parents or teachers said. And it drove me nuts that I generally got punished more frequently (for “talking back”) than other kids (my sister in particular) who said the right things to adults but were less likely to do what they said.

  • PandaRosa

    This is one thing I always locked horns with my ex, regarding attitude, and still do with my mother, over getting the kids to do anything. It’s been  years and she STILL rags me over their sulkiness, I just wanted the job to get done and she is all, “You’re not going to let them talk to you like that, are you? My mother would never let me get away with such an attitude, blah blah blah” *sigh*
    Here’s the fun part: Grandmother may have been hellfire and brimstone, Mother’s a Unitarian, I’m the Born-Again,  granted in the Presbyterian Church now, but still…

  • Münchner Kindl


    In the years since, I’ve become more and more aware of this notion that
    it’s allegedly not enough to obey your parents, you have to be actively
    happy about it or what you’re doing doesn’t count.

    Paul Watzlawick cited the related attitudes – that parents expect their children to always be happy because they are doing so much for them, so every non-happy face is an accusation – and the expectation to do tasks voluntarily and hence happily (what Fred cited his mother saying about cleaning the room in the Philemon essay) – as messing children up considerably because it denies their real feelings and requires them to replace them with manufactured ones. Not good at all for raising healthy people.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I had that a few times when I was a kid, so there’s definitely secular parents who can fall into the trap of thinking their kid isn’t behaving exactly the “right” way and accusing them of motives they never had.

  • alfgifu

    I knew a man who was at the actual bridge on the river Kwai. Unsurprisingly, it was nothing much like the film (fiction being fiction and all that). The actual soldiers involved did their level best to sabotage the structure they were being forced to build. To the extent of things like gathering insects that looked as though they ate wood, and smuggling them in to the wooden supports.

    But that’s the thing about resisting overwhelming odds. It’s difficult, and sometimes all you can do is something so small that it would be ridiculous under any other circumstances. And it’s quite likely that you’re not going to have any effect, and that the evil thing will be destroyed by someone else in a flash aeroplane who can swan in, drop the bomb, and swan out again. It doesn’t make the resistance worthless – there’s something magnificent about going on beyond all hope.

    If I’m ever in a situation like that, well, I don’t know if I’d have the courage or the endurance. But at least I know what heroism should look like.

  • Ygorbla

    Honestly, it reads almost like a parody of salvation-by-faith-alone.  They put a character in a situation where all they have to do is, literally, push _one button_ to perform a great heroic act, and they choose to completely ignore it because, you know, they have faith and that’s all that matters.

  • Ciaphas

    This post reminded me of a fantasy novel I read years ago. I forget the title, but I remember a group of characters trying to stop an invading army by infiltrating the quartermasters and sabotaging the logistics.

    They were worried about being discovered so they tried to make their mistakes rare but meaningful, for example sending winter uniforms to a front requesting summer uniforms.  Eventually the head of the quartermasters shows up and our heroes are about to run for it when they’re told they’re going to receive an award for being the best quartermasters in the army and a special commendation for realizing that the supply chain was so slow that the uniforms wouldn’t arrive until winter anyway.

    Being the bad guy’s best employees worked because it was accidental and played for laughs.  Rayford and Buck have neither excuse.

  • Jamoche

    a special commendation for realizing that the supply chain was so slow

    Meanwhile another infiltration squad is doing their part for the resistance by slowing down the supply chain :)

  • Jessica_R

    It’s almost why I think these books are parody. This has got to be at least the 16th time in the series the “hero” has the chance to “press the record/broadcast button while the villain doesn’t know and have the whole world hear/see his true nature” and nope. It’s like the dialogue, hack work may not be pretty but hack work knows you say “thanks, I appreciate it” when someone lends you their car. 

  • Isabeldepaul

    Rayford is evil. Everything before this was just him being an asshole and a non-hero, but here he has officially become a villain. I honestly find myself comparing him to Nyder from Genesis of the Daleks. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The tall heroes seem to fit into the “tall and lean” or “tall and athleticly muscular” categories, too. I know many tall men, and a sizeable fraction are of the “built like a brick shithouse” variety, which you don’t see much in literature.

  • aunursa

    With all of this discussion of how tall Rayford and Buck are, I was just curious where in Left Behind their heights are mentioned. The character listing section of the Left Behind Authorized Handbook is posted on the official LB site.  The heights and weights of some of the characters are described…

    Rayford is 6’4″. 
    Buck is “several inches shorter than Ken Ritz, a foot taller than Chaim.”
    Ken Ritz is “tall, lean.”
    Chaim’s height is not indicated.
    Chloe is 5’7″, 125 lbs. 
    Hattie’s height is not indicated.
    Nicolae is “an inch or two over 6 feet”* and “trim, athletic.”
    Bruce Barnes is “short and slightly overweight.”
    Leon Fortunato is “short and stocky.”

    * Not specified in the Handbook, but indicated in Book #1.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Hattie’s height is not indicated that I remember, but she weighs 115 pounds:

    So LaJenkins clearly prefer their women very slim.*

    (When I was 18, I shared Chloe’s stats.  And my doctor told my that was more than a little underweight.)

    *Jenkins always notes when women are chubby.  An interesting trend for a man who has been quite public about his own struggle with his weight.

  • Randy Owens

    One thing that occurred to me when Chloe in particular jumped out at me from that list.  All this use of the plain simple present tense, “is”, when they list these heights & weights.  For a series of books that spans something like 1,007 years.  Including Chloe, who, I believe, was pregnant and had a child at some time.  But she just plain is 125 pounds, no ifs, ands, or buts.  Even the manly menfolk, I’d expect some variation in weight over a millennium or so, and likely even in the ones who don’t even last seven years.

  • aunursa

    I presume that the description in the Handbook is that of the character when he or she is first introduced.  I don’t think the authors of the LBAH intended that their readers would assume that specific descriptions of weight and hair color, for example, were meant to apply to the various characters over the course of the entire series. Also bear in mind that the LBAH was published years before Book #16, which covers the millenium following Book #12.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    So only Chloe gets a specific weight, eh?

    One that makes her medically underweight, too.

    Colour me shocked.

  • depizan

    Buck is “several inches shorter than Ken Ritz, a foot taller than Chaim.”
    Ken Ritz is “tall, lean.”
    Chaim’s height is not indicated.

    Wait, what?  How short can Chaim be for his lack of height not to be remarked upon? If he’s 5’4 (making Buck the same height as Rayford), we now have Ken Ritz being at least 6’7.  O_o

    If we make Ken Ritz the same height as Rayford, we’ve got Buck standing at 6’1 and Chaim at 5’1. O_o  How could that not be remarkable?  Sure, there are men who are short, even that short, but they’re unusual enough that people generally kind of notice.

    Then you add in that Bruce and Leon get described as short… does that mean they’re shorter than Chaim, who apparently isn’t described as short (unless we’re supposed to get that from his being a foot shorter than Buck)?

    Then there’s the oddness of having the supervillain be shorter than the heroes.  Unless “over 6 feet tall” was supposed to mean 6’6 or something.  I mean, generally villains are taller than the heroes so that they look imposing.  (At least in comic books and pulp stories.)

  • Ruby_Tea

    Oddly, I’m almost positive that in a later book in the series, Leon is described as tall, though not as tall as Manly Ray-Ray.

    I’ll try to find it when Once Upon a Time is over.  ;)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The novels usually portray Supreme Sidekick Leon as more of an overweight buffoon.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Yeah, again with the weight thing, coming from Jenkins.  Weird.

  • Lliira

    It’s not weird at all.

    Right-wing men think it is a woman’s duty to be beautiful. Hell, what am I saying, most of the United States thinks it’s a woman’s duty to be beautiful, no matter their politics. A woman must be fuckable or she is completely and utterly without any worth whatsoever. And fuckable means skinny. 

    So you get Glenn Beck simulating vomiting in a bag on the radio for hours because supposedly the thought of having sex with a beautiful plus size model makes him so disgusted. She’s beautiful and young, but she’s “fat”, so she must be disgusting. The fact that Glenn Beck is not-beautiful (to put it mildly) nor young are things that matter. Men’s attractiveness is not a thing we are to think about, ever. Women’s attractiveness is all that matters about them, ever.

  • depizan

    *shrugs* A “tick” under six feet tall still seems tall to me.

    It certainly isn’t short.  I think average height for men is somewhere around 5’9-5’10 something like that.

    Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t be boggling at the possibility of Ken Ritz being 6’7.  It could be that in the alternate reality of Left Behind, average height for men is 6’1.  No, wait, that’d still make him pretty damn tall.

  • Tricksteron

    IIRC average height for an American male is 5’9″.  For an merican female 5’4″

  • depizan

     Making these guys not just tall, but extremely tall.  (Which is what makes it so noteworthy, really.)

    It’s got to be an alternate reality.

  • LoneWolf343

    Ironically, the soldiers who were actually at the events of “The Bridge At The River Kwai” hated that movie because of how it presented their commanding officer.

  • flat

    There is a left behind handbook!

    May God have mercy upon our souls.

  • aunursa

    Of course there is a handbook.  There are Left Behind newsletters, screen savers, wallpapers, video games, etc.  There’s also a video, The Making of Left Behind: The Movie, hosted by Janaya Stevens (Chloe), and featuring interviews with the cast and crew.  I haven’t seen t-shirts, caps, or coffee mugs, yet.

  • The Lodger

    “Mom was Raptured and all I got was this lousy t-shirt…”

    Y’know, I’d pay real money for one of those

  • EllieMurasaki

    Business opportunity! Hit up Cafepress or Zazzle.

  • Trynn

    Actually, the “over sized bag” comment really bothered me.  I’m tired, so I might not explain this well, but a lot of times men complain about the size of a woman’s purse. “What all do you have in there, the kitchen sink?”

    The comment seems more like a dig at women, to me. Although it’s possible that, in the hands of A Better Author, it would have come across as good characterization. Here, it just seems to reinforce sexist stereotypes.

  • Guest

    There’s a handbook. there used to be a chat room where L&J (well, J, anyway) used to hang out with the fans.

    And there are other reviewers. “Total Drek” got through Book 1.

    Verna’s bag: isn’t there a theory that he older the woman, the larger her handbag? Until she reaches the point of “oh, skip it!” and either wears purple or reverts to a clutch. Either way, the suitcase stage doesn’t last for life.

  • Lliira

    Speaking of heights and sexism, the nurse at my mother’s labor said I was going to be a boy because both of my parents were tall.

    Yes. The nurse.

    I wonder where she thought my tall mother came from.

  • aunursa

    It’s not at all difficult. It involves him crouching a tiny bit and her stretching a little bit.

    Exactly.   There’s a 7-inch height difference between my wife and me, and it’s never affected our ability to be affectionate.

  • Isabel C.

    @Carstonio:disqus : As a reader and a writer, I don’t see anything wrong with a little wish-fulfillment. Winding up more conventionally-attractive and successful than the person you dislike is a common enough fantasy, and not a particularly bad one as long as you don’t let it overtake your life.  I also don’t really see it as a sexist one, although that depends on how it’s presented–the assumption that women and only women will care deeply about being prettier would be sexist, but I’ve seen a fair number of tropes where guys eye the ex-QB’s receding hairline and smirk, or whatever.

    And I’m going to stand up for pandering, up to a certain point. No, you shouldn’t play to racism/sexism/etc, but if those things aren’t present, why shouldn’t you give your audience what they want? And as an audience member, why shouldn’t you seek out emotionally satisfying fantasies? That’s kind of the basis for half the storytelling in the world.

    In re: parents and attitudes and blah: Ugh, “rebellious heart”, what the hell is that  bullshit?I mean, I can understand and advocate a stance where yes, you do have to do this thing, kid, and I don’t particularly want to hear any complaining about it.  My folks had that policy on occasion, probably out of a desire not to have their lives be vast vortexes of preteen whining and sulking. And I think there is value in teaching kids that yep, sometimes you need to suck it up and do this thing *and* be pleasant about it, because having to do stuff you don’t like does not give you the right to make life miserable for everyone else, and the world does not always want your opinion.  Having encountered and dated a few versions of Compulsively Honest Guy, I really wish more people would learn that.

    But that’s a different lesson. That’s There Is An Appropriate Time and Place to Vent, or Other People’s Feelings Are Also Important, or Seriously, Nobody Needs Your Opinion On Farscape Right Now. These are very different than the lesson that you don’t get to be unhappy about anything authority, even proper authority, makes you do, because that lesson is wrong and sucks. 

  • Lori


     That’s There Is An Appropriate Time and Place to Vent, or Other People’s
    Feelings Are Also Important, or Seriously, Nobody Needs Your Opinion On
    Farscape Right Now.  

    I’m totally down with 1 & 2, but 3 can be a little tricky :)