NRA: Stealing from the starving

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 74-89

I do not like Buck Williams. If he were a real person whom I met in real life I would not want to spend time with him. Ditto for Rayford Steele.

The heroes of a story do not have to be likable. I have liked many stories that featured protagonists I did not like. But what sets Buck and Rayford apart from all those other unlikable heroes in otherwise likable stories is that the protagonists here in Left Behind are unintentionally unlikable.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins want us to like Buck and Rayford. They expect us to like them — to admire them, to find them good, funny and fun, clever and charming. And yet Buck and Rayford do not come across as any of those things.

A bunch of government bureaucrats getting in Buck’s way.

Stranger still is that Buck and Rayford are most unlikable due to the very things the authors most expect will make us like them. That’s particularly clear in the pages we’re revisiting today. Jenkins seems to be working hard here to show us Buck Williams: Cool Guy. But what we find instead is Buck Williams: Big Jerk.

The context here is one in which Buck ought to have our sympathy. His wife is missing and in jeopardy and he’s racing to find her. That’s a situation in which I’m inclined to give a character every benefit of the doubt. Buck is facing an emergency, and the context of an emergency can make some otherwise jerk-like behavior seem excusable or even commendable. We can forgive a person in a life-and-death emergency for being rude, impatient or testy — that just shows they’re focused on the proper priority with an appropriate urgency.

But the underlying problem in this chapter — and all throughout this series — is that Buck responds to his own emergency without acknowledging that everyone around him is also facing the very same emergency and the very same stakes.

We can forgive a character who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving children, but we cannot forgive a character who steals that bread from someone else’s starving children.

For six pages, Buck races through traffic and that’s all the other vehicles and motorists are to him, traffic — objects and obstacles in his way. Buck’s aggressive disregard for those people is excused as a necessary expediency because his loved one may be in danger after his city has been destroyed. It does not occur to either Buck or Jenkins that everyone else on the road is in the exact same predicament. The sequence is thus presented as though everyone else were just commuting or running errands while Buck and Buck alone has an urgent need to get somewhere.

This disregard for everyone else becomes even sharper when Buck finally skids to a stop amidst “a busy force of emergency workers.”

Jenkins typed those words: “busy,” “emergency” and “workers.” And yet the meaning of those words do not seem to have registered with him. He presents them, and Buck reacts to them, as just another set of obstacles, just more annoying others getting in Buck’s way.

Jenkins even tells us that the scene includes “squad cars, ambulances, fire trucks” — so this is a crowd of first responders who are “busy” responding when Buck nearly runs them down. Yet Buck and Jenkins regard them as government bureaucrats.

This creates two unnecessary problems, both of which make Buck more difficult to like. First, it means he spends several pages interfering with these emergency workers who have to stop busily helping people in a war zone in order to deal with him. But secondly it also means that it doesn’t occur to Buck to enlist their help.

And this crew would have been very helpful. Buck knows Chloe was in a crash, so she may need the help of firefighters and EMTs. But he doesn’t know where the crash happened — so a police officer with a patrol-car radio linked to other patrol cars in the area seems like just exactly what Chloe needs right now.

Yet Buck doesn’t ask for their help. He doesn’t tell them that he’s trying to find his wife, that she’s been in a crash and may be injured. He doesn’t describe Chloe or her SUV or ask any of these workers if they’ve seen or heard of anything to match that description. All Buck thinks about, instead, is how to get past and away from these bureaucrats, these people in his way.

“I’m Cameron Williams, publisher of Global Community Weekly,” he tells them. “I report directly to the potentate.”

A young, slender cop pulled Buck’s real ID wallet from the hands of the woman officer. “Let me just have a look at this,” he said with sarcasm. “If you really report to Nicolae Carpathia, you’d have level 2-A clearance, and I don’t see — oops, I guess I do see level 2-A security clearance here.”

The three officers huddled to peer at the unusual identification card. “You know, carrying phony 2-A security clearance is punishable by death –”

“Yes, I do.”

The reader has to do most of the work in this series to construct the world of Nicolae Carpathia’s one-world dictatorship. Little scraps of information like this have to be collected carefully throughout these books in order to piece together the picture of life under the Antichrist. This is a significant detail, revealing that Nicolae is running a tyrannical police state of the sort in which impersonating an officer can be grounds for execution.

Informing us of that doesn’t seem to have been the purpose of including this detail here, though. The effect Jenkins is trying for seems to be, instead, to show us that Buck is cool. The police officers are awed by his security clearance, after all, so that must mean he is awesome.

“I borrowed this car from a friend named Zee,” Buck tells the officers. “You can check that for sure before you have it junked.”

“You can’t leave this car here!”

“What am I gonna do with it?” Buck said. “It’s worthless, it’s got a flat tire, and there’s no way we’re gonna find help for that tonight.”

“Or for the next two weeks, most likely,” one of the cops said.

So one of the world’s major cities can be rebuilt after a nuclear attack in about two weeks, but a car with a flat tire is beyond repair.

For all Buck knows, Verna has a spare tire in the trunk, but he decides to set out on foot without even checking. One gets the feeling that he’d have abandoned Verna’s car even if it had just run out of gas — “It’s worthless, the tank is empty!”

That “two weeks” bit highlights the weirdness of this entire scene, none of which seems like it plays out in the context of a nuclear war zone. The cop’s next question to Buck is: “So, where were you goin’ in such an all-fired hurry?” Set aside the oddness of a Chicago police officer talking like someone at an old-timey Wild West show, and just try to imagine anyone asking such a question makes any sense in the immediate aftermath of the obliteration of Chicago by perhaps-nuclear bombs. “What’s your hurry?” just isn’t a question most people would think to ask in a war zone.

Buck tells the officer he has to get to the Drake hotel, and he seems to mean it, even though this is the one place in all of the Chicago region that he knows Chloe can’t be.

“Where have you been, pal? Don’t you listen to the news? Most of Michigan Avenue is toast.”

“Including The Drake?”

“I don’t know about that, but it can’t be in too good a shape by now.”

“If I walk up over that rise and get onto Michigan Avenue on foot, am I gonna die of radiation poisoning?”

“Civil Defense guys tell us there’s no fallout readings. That means this must have been done by the militia, trying to spare as much human life as possible. Anyway, if those bombs had been nuclear, the radiation would have traveled a lot farther than this already.”

“True enough,” Buck said. “Am I free to go?”

Here are more details to try to fit into our picture of the world. Chicago police officers are still armed, so they must really be Global Community forces, since everyone else has been dis-armed by Nicolae’s OWG (except for militia groups, which have their own ultra-modern air force and nuclear arsenal, apparently). Chicago and/or the Global Community also operates something called “Civil Defense,” the function of which is unclear in a one-world government. I am having a hard time making all of these pieces fit together.

I’m also having a hard time figuring out Buck’s plan here. Chloe was just leaving Chicago on a highway when she crashed, so why is Buck headed all the way into downtown Chicago? And why on foot? How are he and Chloe going to get back to Mount Prospect? Or what if Chloe needs to be rushed to a hospital (if any non-nuked hospitals still stand)? Is he just assuming that his beloved Range Rover will still be able to drive?

Buck doesn’t think about any of that as he trudges inexplicably toward the hotel. He’s thinking about Verna. No, he’s not thinking, “It was so nice of Verna to lend me her car and I feel just awful that I won’t be able to return it to her.” He’s thinking, rather, that perhaps he should not have offered to help her in the first place.

It suddenly hit Buck that he had taken a huge risk. It wouldn’t be long before Verna Zee learned that he had, at least at one time, been a full-fledged member of New Hope Village Church. He had been so careful about not taking a leadership role there, not speaking in public, not being known to very many people. Now one of his own employees — and a long-standing enemy at that — would have knowledge that could ruin him, even cost him his life.

Buck’s cautious secrecy about his church is strange when we contrast it with Rayford’s missionary zeal toward his co-workers. Rayford’s outspoken proselytizing shows that Buck’s furtiveness is not necessary — Nicolae doesn’t seem to care that Rayford is a born-again Christian. It also underscores the selfishness of Buck’s attitude. He believes that Verna and Alice and the others will be damned to Hell for eternity unless he warns them not to take the Mark of the Beast, but he’s not willing to warn them if that means risking his “level 2-A clearance” and all the perks that go with it.

Worrying that Verna has learned all his secrets, Buck dials Loretta’s house and asks to speak to Verna.

Loretta said, “I’m just tellin’ her my story, as I assumed you wanted me to.”

Buck was silent. Finally, he said, “Put her on, would you, Loretta?”

This could have been a nice character moment — a chance for some gentle musing on Buck’s reluctance to see Verna converted and to have to then welcome her as a sister. But it’s not presented that way. It’s presented, instead, as an attempt to build suspense … Oh no! What if Verna learns the Jesus secret?!

Once he’s talking to Verna on the phone, Buck briefly behaves decently — offering to replace her car with an upgrade and asking if there’s anything she needs from the old one before he abandons it.

“Is there anything you need out of it?”

“Nothing I can think of. There is a hairbrush I really like in the glove box.”

“Verna!”

“That does seem a little trivial in light of everything.”

“No documents, personal belongings, hidden money, anything like that?”

“No. Just do what you gotta do. It would be nice if I didn’t get in trouble for this.”

“I’ll leave word with the authorities that when they get around to it they can tow this car to any junkyard and trade whatever the yard gives them for it for the towing fee.”

A hair brush isn’t a personal belonging?

Buck’s plan for abandoning the car recalls the earlier scene in which he elaborately arranges to have his rental car returned to the airport — less than an hour after he witnessed the destruction of the airport by a perhaps-nuclear bomb. Once again Buck seems serenely certain that a nuclear assault won’t have any bearing on the routine operation of towing companies or salvage yards.

Before he hangs up, Verna mentions that Loretta has “got some really strange ideas.” Buck pockets the phone, worrying that Loretta will tell Verna all about the Antichrist and the Tribulation Force and Bruce’s charts and all the rest. He thinks to himself:

“Either she becomes a believer, or I’m dead.”

This is why I don’t like Buck Williams. Even when the subject is somebody else’s eternal soul, he still thinks it’s all about him.

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  • PandaRosa

    First, maybe.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Well the hairbrush is a girlie thing, and therefore unworthy of Buck’s attention. Notice he asks about manly stuff like ” documents, personal belongings, hidden money, anything like that”.

    That explains about 98% of Left Behind right there

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I’m kinda surprised that Jenkins thinks that lesbians even use hairbrushes or that they could “like” them even if they did.

    That hairbrush thing really gets me.  Verna might have nothing as of one hour ago.  Her home could be leveled, her every possession gone, and there she is, surrounded by people who either pity her (Loretta) or despise her (Buck and Chloe), and the woman isn’t even permitted the dignity of having her own hairbrush.

    (And what makes it worse is that the hairbrush could have been a symbol of Buck’s “new nature.”  What a scene it would be if he carried that hairbrush around in his backpack until he got back to Mount Prospect and presented it to Verna, the brush being, by that point, a representation of Buck’s new mindset, a wonderful gift he could give to this woman who has been his “enemy.”  But no, fuck you, Verna, NO HAIRBRUSH FOR YOU!

    In Soon, Jenkins actually references the movie Con Air.  His reference is utterly ridiculous in context, but it is proof that Jenkins knows the movie, and has seen the finale, in which the hero presents his daughter with a stuffed toy, which was pristine at the beginning of the movie but now tattered and dirty as a result of the hero’s ordeals.  So Jenkins saw Con Air, but didn’t actually see it.)

    (Edited for spelling and grammar because it’s Friday night.)

  • Münchner Kindl

    That hairbrush thing really gets me.

    Actually, I see it as another snide barb of Haye Jenkins – look at those women, airheads who worry about easily replacable things instead of important things like documents* – that could work wonders for Right Behind:

    although Verna brushes it off as trivial, I’m sure there’s a story behind it. Did a lover (female or male) give it to her? Is it not a plastic brush from Woolworth, but with a carved wooden handle she was given in Africa after doing an excellent report during a crisis that spurned worldwide attention and thus help? Did she buy it 30 years ago with her first self-earned money after her first piece was printed? Is it an inheritance from her mother/ Grandmother/ aunt? Did it belong to a famous feminist / female reporter, and she bought it at an auction as good-luck/ reminder?
    Is it a gift for somebody, and she was just transporting it?

  • Aiwhelan

     In all fairness, you’d feel like a petty jerk saying “Can you go back to the car for my hairbrush before you rescue your wife?”

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    If he had an ounce of humanity (or, hell, manners), he would have called her at the moment he “had to” abandon the car (because ZOMG FLAT TIRE).  As others have pointed out, it’s simply an act of petty cruelty to call her after the fact and mention that btw, he left her car FOREVER.

    “Yeah, Verna, thanks for letting me crash at your place for the apocalypse.  Anything I can bring to you in the safe suburbs?”

    “Why, yes, actually, there are some irreplaceable photographs of my grandmother and the earrings my father gave me when my first article was published, if you don’t mind grabbing them.”

    “Oh, MAN, Verna, I totally forgot to mention that there’s a massive fireball where your apartment used to be.  Oh well, good thing you didn’t have anything important in there, like hidden money, eh?” 

  • Tricksterson

    I now I’m going meta here but I picture Verna saying that as a joke.

  • Persia

     I like that he apparently doesn’t bother actually GETTING the hairbrush. I guess it would just weigh him down. You know. Because hairbrushes are so bulky and heavy.

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    “I’m Cameron Williams, publisher of Global Community Weekly,” he tells them. “I report directly to the potentate.”

    Oh, man.  I seriously could not stop laughing for half a minute.  And it was not a good laugh.
    Seriously, when one appends Atlas Shrugged to the Bible as an unoffical Third Testament, a viewpoint like L&J’s is a likely result.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Utterly impossible. Though Atlas Shrugged’s heroes are just as one-dimensional and unlikeable as Buck, and at least some of Atlas Shrugged’s heroes get out of the cities before the equivalent of nuclear explosions occur. Also, Ayn Rand was not so much about accepting Christ into one’s heart (she was an atheist) as she was about entrepreneurs keeping the fruits of their labor and the moochers&looters to not receive the fruits of anyone else’s labor. She did, however, have a very evident contempt for collectivists (cf. the train disaster scene and the scene towards the end where the heroes kill a guard who is insufficiently decisive for Rand).

  • GeniusLemur

     It it’s impossible, why is it the philosophy of the modern Republican party?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    It isn’t.  See http://www.govtrack.us/blog/2012/08/15/vp-candidates-agreed-on-substantive-bills/ Would Rand ever support No Child Left Behind? The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003? The 2008 stimulus? The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008? If you think any Republican politician (except Ron Paul, and even he is’nt a Randian purist) actually believes the central message of Atlas Shrugged, you are very much mistaken. For the views of actual Randians on Romney-Ryan, see http://capitalismmagazine.com/2012/09/the-nerve-that-mitt-romney-struck/ and http://capitalismmagazine.com/2012/10/2012-presidential-elections-obama-the-nihilist-vs-romney-the-pragmatist/

  • GeniusLemur

     They do the same thing with Atlas Shrugged that they do with the Bible: take the bits they like (“It’s good to be selfish” “If you’re rich, you earned it” “Rich people should have their asses kissed more” “Anyone who is poor is just lazy”), ignore the rest, and pretend some stuff they think should be there actually is.

  • Catherine A.

    That is so good!  I hadn’t thought about Atlas Shrugged and the Left Behind rigamarole  as having a similar contexts but they have.  Nicolae is reminding me more and more of The Brain in Pinky and the Brain.  Rayford and Buck are both being Pinky.

  • aunursa

    Can someone please rewrite this scene so that the cops give Buck what he deserves?

  • X

    Love to, but “hostile stare” and “cold shoulder” don’t have onomatopoeiae.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    They probably do in Japanese.

  • VMink

    An atomic wedgie sounds like a nice thing. ^_^  Barring that, a “We’re busy here, go ‘way,” brush-off would do.

    Instead, everyone must bow to the awesomeness that is this man.  Sigh.

  • GeniusLemur

    I’ll take a stab at it:
    The cop puts the gun to Buck’s head.
    Buck lunges at the cop as he grabs for his ID
    The cop misinterprets and pulls the trigger
    Buck “wakes up” in front of the devil
    Buck says “You can’t touch me, I have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ”
    The devil falls down laughing, then throws Buck into the deepest, foulest pit he has.

  • WalterC

     Wouldn’t it go more like this?

    Buck says, “You can’t touch me, I have a personal relationship with the Lord,” and pulls out his “Jesus ID” card.

    The Devil scoffs as he takes it from him, saying, “Hey, if you really did have a relationship with the Lord, you’d have Level 001-Grace clearance, and, oops, I guess you do. You know, having a fake ID like this is punishable by reincarnation as a head louse…”

  • Deborah Moore

    Wikipedia says that LaHaye was a gunner on a bomber plane during WWII.  I suspect that the descriptions of bombing here are based on LaHaye’s experiences of conventional bombing in WWII.  Neither of the authors understands just how much more powerful and deadly nuclear bombs are.

  • roisindubh211

     It’s all the more frustrating then that they’re so fixated on nuclear bombs, when they have someone’s real experiences in war to draw upon. Much better opportunity to “write what [they] know” than all the “sitting-in-traffic” and “phone tag” experience they’ve been so happy to draw upon…

  • aunursa

    Jenkins typed those words: “busy,” “emergency” and “workers.” And yet the meaning of those words do not seem to have registered with him. He presents them, and Buck reacts to them, as just another set of obstacles, just more annoying others getting in Buck’s way.

    Interesting how we’re discussing this particular scene during this particular week.

  • Lorehead

    Hurricane Sandy was in no way a good thing.  I’m just grateful my sister and my aunt are safe and sound.  That said:

    If it had to happen, if indeed it was the predictable and predicted consequence of the choices we made, it could not have happened at a more appropriate time to remind everyone of our responsibilities to each other, and how our two parties treat those responsibilities today.

  • Lori

     

    If it had to happen, if indeed it was the predictable and predicted
    consequence of the choices we made, it could not have happened at a more
    appropriate time to remind everyone of our responsibilities to each
    other, and how our two parties treat those responsibilities today.   

    One thing I hope people are keeping in mind is that things like this are going to keep happening because our weather is getting more extreme. When the next major weather disaster strikes who do you want to have in charge of helping you and people you care about? Mike “Heck of a job Brownie” Brown,  or the guy who Brown says provided help too quickly? That’s the choice. You get the kind of person who failed at everything but raising money for a Republican, whose answer to everything is “let the state’s handle it”, or a person with an actual clue about emergency management who thinks it’s important for the most capable actor to deal with critical needs.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

     placeholder…

  • http://tobascodagama.com Tobasco da Gama

     It was divinely revealed to him in a matter utterly indistinguishable from making it up as he goes along. Mysterious ways.

  • Persia

    I’m doing a fantasy NaNo, and I’m realizing I really should have outlined the king’s, er, kingdom before I started running headlong with the damn thing.

  • flat

    Oh man look Buck got an A-2 security clearance, he is such a rad dude.

    (how is my eighties slang by the way)

  • hidden_urchin

    Oh man look Buck got an A-2 security clearance…

    If you know what I mean. Remember, Bucky, it’s not the level of your security clearance that matters. It’s what you do with it.

    Alas, yours is only for show.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

     Oh, Lord and Lady, please don’t call him Bucky. :p

    A much more awesome character with that name would have drilled a bullet between Nicky Rwenzori’s eyes within a chapter or two of realizing what he was, thus sparing the world a good deal of trouble. Granted, he’d have to have a few noir-ish, brooding internal monologues first.

  • Tricksterson

    To whom do you refer?  The only other fictional Bucky I know of is Captain America’s dead sidekick.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Some reason that couldn’t be the character Jess speaks of?

  • Tricksterson

    Admittedly it might be a more recent interpretation of him, bar the occasional graphic novel I haven’t really read any comics since the 90s  (except the first few issues of Buffy Season 8)but the Bucky, I knew was a long way from noirish and brooding.  More gosh and gung ho

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    So, very long story short, Cap’s sidekick didn’t actually die, fell into the hands of the Soviets, and got turned into a brainwashed cyborg assassin, spending much of the 20th century in cryostasis.  He’s recovered from that, but he’s had a tough time of things.

    I know how the above sounds, but I swear it’s actually a really, really good story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    All of which was written by Ed Brubaker, who definitely brings a noir sensibility to most everything he writes.

    And yes, today’s Bucky definitely is the brooding type, and I’d say he has a lot to brood about…

    Part of his reintroduction to the Marvel Universe also involved something of a retcon to the character’s WW II era personality as well.  It turns out he wasn’t actually as young as he was presented to be – that was all PR – nor was he particularly wide-eyed and naïve. 

    Outside of the newsreels, he was an actual soldier who engaged in a lot of wetwork, getting his hands dirty in a way that Cap never could.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

    That was pretty much how Sebastian Stan summed up the character, after reading Brubaker’s Winter Soldier arc: “the guy who does Captain America’s dirty work”.

    And now that we’ve all spoiled the plot of the next Captain America movie for Tricksterson and everybody else, onward! ;)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    Good enough to be a mega-church youth pastor circa 2002.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    /<-rw4d!!!!

    80s BBS slang is even worse. :P But Buck would totally type like he's an ankie who thinks he's among the k00l k1dz.

  • http://profiles.google.com/fader2011 Alex Harman

    /<-rw4d!!!!
    80s BBS slang is even worse. :P But Buck would totally type like he's an ankie who thinks he's among the k00l k1dz.

    ALL CAPS TALK LEADS TO B1FF T4LK.
    B1FF T4LK LE4D$ 2 W4r37_t4LK.
    W4r3Zt/1k L34d$ 2 1337 ///r37_ |>0o|) 7/|_|<,
    4|||) 7|-|3|23 7|-|3 |)/|2|( 51|)3 |_|3$.

    Translation:
    All caps talk leads to biff talk.
    Biff talk leads to warez talk.
    Warez talk leads to leet warez dood talk,
    And there the dark side lies.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    *snerk* :D

    Only the sysop would lead Buck on some kind of wild-goose chase to get the sekrit passwordz and then leave him holding a bag of manure in the middle of a forest. :P

  • Tricksterson

    Nobody I knew in the 80s actually used the word “rad”.  “Dude” yes but usually as an insult.  Anyway these books were written in the Nineties.

  • hidden_urchin

    The hidden money was in the hairbrush, genius. Verna just didn’t want you getting your hands on it. No doubt she’ll have the awesome salvage yard employees hold it when they call to comfirm ownership of the car. Loretta will drive her there and will witness to said employees, saving a half dozen souls and gaining new resistance fighters.

  • aunursa

    fake placeholder [in protest of placeholders — you know who you are]

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    “That does seem a little trivial in light of everything.”

    The whole discussion was trivial in light of everything.  What was the point of this scene anyway?

  • GeniusLemur

    Holy shit! “That means this must have been done by the militia, trying to spare as much human life as possible.” What the hell? If someone’s trying to spare as much human life as possible, they DON’T BOMB A CROWDED CITY!

    And this ties back to the original insurgency, where Fitzhugh and the militias figured that blowing up New York would rally the country to their side. How is it possible to even begin to be this deluded?

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Just for once, I want to read the interview where someone points out Buck’s character failures to the series’ authors and asks them, “What were you THINKING?”

    I don’t expect to hear any answers that would satisfy me. I’m not even sure I’d hear anything that would surprise me. I just want to hear Jenkins and LaHaye out themselves  further and in their own words as Colossal Jerks.

  • aunursa

    I would pay to attend an event in which L&J are read a few of Fred’s posts, and then we see their reactions and responses.

  • GeniusLemur

    It would be fun if L&J had the slightest intellectual honesty, but I rather suspect they’d storm out, scream “NO! NO! NO!” a lot, or cover their ears and sing “Mary had a Little Lamb” at the top of their lungs.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     It would probably start out with polite chuckles and attempts to explain their side of things (“Yes, the militias weren’t actually using atomic weapons because they were interested in preserving innocent lives.”) and polite dodges.  They would become more and more irritated as time wore on as more posts are read, punching further holes in their explanations.  It would likely end in explosions and threats of legal action, or the authors angrily storming out of the room.  Pass the popcorn?

  • GeniusLemur

    For someone who hates Carpathia and the OWG, Buck sure is eager to name-drop him and wave his “look how much Carpathia likes me” OWG ID around.

  • VMink

    This observation actually has an interesting subtext to it.

    Both Buck and Ray have been given certain authority by the Antichrist — and it’s clear that they also have, to some extent, the favor of the Antichrist as well.  Almost as if they’ve been… marked.  Which, I do not believe is an altogether too outre jump to make.  How many times do they wave their… clearance around, in order to transact or trade with others?  Like Buck’s ‘Babylon Express Fuligin Card’ that has enough of a credit limit to get a fully-loaded Range Rover?

    Rayford and Buck have been offered, and have accepted and use, the Mark of the Beast.

  • GeniusLemur

    Good point. In a very real sense, they have. And it’s a mark on their hand, sort of(holding the ID).

    But, of course L&J think the mark is supposed to something seperate that’s bleeding obvious to the point of actually calling it the mark, so no one can ever be mistaken. It’s an interesting contrast to the Jack Chick tract I saw the other day that claimed that by joining the freemasons, people can become Satanists without knowing it.

  • Aiwhelan

     that would be a fantastic twist

  • Ima Pseudonym

    This helps to halfway gel a concept I’ve had going in my head since the whole thing started.  It probably doesn’t match what’s going to happen in the rest of the series, and I’m not even sure it matches what’s happened so far, but here goes:

    The Kingdom described at the end?  It isn’t Jesus’ kingdom.  It’s Hell.  Buck and Rayford are actually in Hell.  They actually died early on somewhere, maybe even in the first book.  The events in the novels mostly consist of their “purgatory,” the place where they’re essentially given a final series of choices and tests to see if they’re worth  saving, or worthy of eternal damnation.  They blow them horribly, because in nearly every situation where they could exercise compassion, save lives or at least ease the suffering they see around them, they go on being self-righteous, sociopathic dickbags. By the time the series ends, they’ve firmly cemented their status as “damned.”  Everyone else who WASN’T a hateful douche has gone on to something better and brighter,  and these people have literally been left behind. 

    Hell is a very private, intensely personal place for each damned soul, with each person’s punishment and surroundings based largely on the personal fantasies of the people consigned there. Rayford and Buck may be essentially sharing a cell, perhaps because of their association and collusion during their own purgagory.  They’re only partially aware at any given time how awful their sterile, hateful new “world” is, perhaps only experiencing vague feelings of wrongness that only rarely erupt into full-blown horror. Each time it is, it’s erased so that they can experience it again, more fully next time.  Or perhaps it’s not even that–they have an eternity to experience Hell, so perhaps it will spin out the horror more slowly over a period of millenia of subjective time.  They have all the time in the world, after all.  No one else is experiencing their misery with them, and everyone else they see and interact with is no more than an elaborate simulation created for their benefit, based on the warped and monstrous theology they adopted for themselves. 

    If I were a better writer, I think that I could spin something out of this.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I like that idea. It reminds me of an SF story* where a guy on a space ship got into a bar fight, and the aliens running the planet the bar was on detected aggressive tendencies. They had the best justice system ever (and with mind-reading truth-detectors) and sentence him to prison where nobody has ever escaped.
    In prison, he’s given a job, a house to sleep at and a task of bringing in some x 100 dollars each week. He can’t earn them, he can either steal them or worse. He talks to some other prisoners about why native aliens are living there, and why they are given criminal tasks, but nobody can explain, besides lots of theories.
    He starts becoming obsessed with killing his landlord, an older female alien, wringing her neck. The administrator puts more pressure at him if he fails his task, but he resists the impulses although it’s terribly hard.
    Then, he’s brought away and the whole thing explained: each prisoner is given a task that allows him to live out his impulses of theft, aggression, rape, etc. The aliens who are the victims … are actually robots, so they don’t take damage. The theory is if the prisoners live out their urges until they are satiated, they can safely be integrated into society again.
    Sadly, the narrator at this point snaps: all his resistance of his murderous urges was useless! He twists the words: the aliens outside the prion are robots, only inside are real, and kills the officials he’s been talking to.

    * The only plausible scenario where people disappear is aliens. God wouldn’t do these things, or we would fight against God for being bad.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     That sounds like an absolutely, incredibly awesome story and I think I’d like to read it sometime.

  • Jenny Islander

    And everywhere they go they see a door, just at the edge of their field of vision.  Something about the door makes them uneasy.  They know that opening it would hurt.

    But the door is always there, somewhere in the architecture.  All they have to do is walk through it.

    They just won ‘t.

  • LunaticFringe

    Fuligin! I spot a Gene Wolfe fan.

  • Magic_Cracker

    “The Jesus Secret” almost sounds like the title a Robert Ludlum-style thriller novel — but not quite… Oh, I know! “The Paraclete Codex”!

  • phranckeaufile

    Drop the definite article, and it becomes a killer band name!

  • VMink

    Now one of his own employees — and a long-standing enemy at that — would have knowledge that could ruin him, even cost him his life.

    Yes, the long-standing enemy who loaned you her car.  Friggin’ myopic dumbass.  *grumble grumble*

    And this: “Either she becomes a believer, or I’m dead.”  Considering Verna is listed as ‘possibly damned’ then I’m going to be disappointed that Herb “Call me Cameron ‘Call me Buck’ Williams” Katz didn’t get himself shellacked.

    Again, there is nothing admirable about this man.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 259 pages

  • MaryKaye

    It is so bizarre that taking favors *from the Antichrist* is supposed to make you cool.

    It’s as if you redid _Schindler’s List_ and tried to play up the fact that Schindler was a Nazi as a way to make him more appealing–instead of having it be a character flaw that he must repent.

  • aunursa

    It’s been awhile since I saw the film.  But didn’t Schindler use his status as a Nazi Party member to aid his quest to save Jews?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    It’s been awhile since I saw the film.  But didn’t Schindler use his status as a Nazi Party member to aid his quest to save Jews?

    Yes, but he is much less insufferable than Buck about it.  Schindler used his money and connections (including outright smuggling and bribery) to get Jews out of danger and kept them protected as best he could.  His efforts were at great material cost and bodily risk to himself, to save others who’s chances of survival otherwise were very grim.  

    Buck on the other hand, seems to simply use the trappings of power Nicky grants him for his own comfort or his own priorities, giving not a care to actually employing that power to help others.  It would be if Schindler were afraid to help any Jews because it might cost him his good name with the Nazis.  He would be a pretty unsympathetic character if he did so.  

  • Loquat

    Schindler gets a scene, near the end of the film, where he looks at some of his expensive possessions and breaks down in tears, estimating how many more people he might have saved had he sold those trappings of wealth and power.

    You will never see Buck Williams wishing he’d sold his Range Rover or his penthouse so he could afford to get Jesus’s word to a few more people.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Oh yes, but IIRC in the beginning of the movie, Schindler was pretty much just looking out for Schindler, and he initially sought membership in the Nazi Party because it was considered fashionable and would get him good connections.

  • Münchner Kindl

    He was also (like many other Germans esp. in that area) convinced it would help his group.

    The important thing is that once he saw what the Nazi ideology really stood for, he changed his mind.

    Buck is probably not capable of recognizing what a Jerk he is, because now as RTC he feels justified being a jerk to non-saved.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Yes, he did. He also bribed the officials, and both in the movie and the book there’s a scene at the end, where he breaks down realizing that if he had sold a bit more “unneccessary but nice and shiny personal belongings” he might have bribed an official for one or five or ten more lives. (I think it was the golden Party emblem or some decoration on his car). After saving over 1 000 lives, Schindler felt bad for not saving more.

    But then, he was not an RTC. He never repented of his personal faults of womanizing and liking the comforts of having money, and he probably didn’t say the sinners pray, he just went ahead and helped people while remaining a human person with faults.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    “Either she becomes a believer, or I’m dead.”Such a show of faith.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Last week, I mocked the bad storytelling, this time, I’ll take a swing at the bad… storytelling.

    There’s a basic structure to your moralizing and your parables. There’s no religious text that has the story of the Really Well-Off Man with Lots of Food who Meets the Starving Kids and Gives Them Food. (“Don’t you think that’s a bit on-the-nose, Paul?” “Look, John, if we don’t spell these things out, who knows what they’ll go reading into the text in 2000 years?”)

    L&J are trying to create tension by having uncertainty surround Chloe’s fate. But that’s the wrong kind of tension for a story like this.*  That’s a tension between “what we hope” and “what we fear”, and that works great in general, but if you’re trying to tell a Christian story, then the tension that matters is the struggle between “what is easy” and “what is right”! 

    Imagine if Chloe had called Buck, and said “The car is in a ditch, I think I’m OK, but there’s some water flowing in. It’s not very fast, but if you don’t make it by nightfall, things could get bad.” Then, as Buck tried to drive across the devastated city to reach her, he keeps running into people in need. There’s a pair of people on the sidewalk, one badly injured, and Buck has to give first aid. There’s a Fire Marshall whose car isn’t working, who needs a lift just a little out of Buck’s way. The granddaughter of an elderly woman is trapped inside a half-bombed building, and she’s unable to manage the rubble to save her. Each of these diversions takes a little time, and Buck knows there’s a clock ticking. 

    Rushing past those folks would be easy, and reaching Chloe immediately would make Buck feel better, but none of it would be the right, proper, Christian thing to do. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    Each of these diversions takes a little time, and Buck knows there’s a clock ticking. 

    NRA, the video game!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    This reminds me again of how Buck and Rayford repeatedly protested that they would not never no absolutely posilutely never EVER work for Nicolae Carpathia.

    And then Bruce Barnes offers like, some weaksauced rationalization for going ahead, and boy oh boy do those fellas race like hell for the perks of the jobs instead of running the other way.

    It’s like they want to have it both ways…

    but doesn’t the Bible they claim to believe in say something about a man and two masters?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Oh no! What if Verna learns the Jesus secret?!

    Then, one of the Saved might be *gasp* a lesbian!  Oh noes, God might not smite all teh ghayes!  All our prayer is for naught!  

  • Tricksterson

    You know, it’s funny.  Even within the context of their belief system these two never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  This was the last book in the series I read and I assumed they were going to save Verna in order to show that you can “pray the gay away” but no, they didn’t.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Ya know – I often worry about my writing; I consider how my characters may be received by the audience – how their personalities may impact both other characters and a reader’s opinions of them and such… I worry that my characters may be unrealistic or unlikeable….

    And then I come here and am reminded of the existence of Buck Williams and the worry dissipates significantly.  No matter how awful my characters turn out to be, I can take some comfort in the knowledge that they are not Buck Williams.

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “A hair brush isn’t a personal belonging?”
    Well, it’s a hair brush. The sort of thing that’s just kicking around in a car, I think I must have two under the seats in my car. Presumably it’s easy to find another like it; barely worth lugging back to someone from the city while leaving her car to be towed.

    Unless, of course, nuclear war had just broken out or something. I guess if a nuclear war had just broken out and you were fleeing the burning ruins of Chicago, suddenly certain kinds of goods and equipment– cars, refrigerated goods– would suddenly become somewhere between unuseful and problematic, whereas certain previously commonplace and useless items, like hairbrushes, dry goods and portable hotplates, would suddenly become important luxuries, things to hold on to tight because you don’t know when or if you’d ever find another. But of course we don’t have to worry about that here.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee is a much nicer person than I am, but if I lent Buck Williams my car, and it was the end of the world and I would be living out of my purse for the forseeable future, I can well imagine myself grateful if he grabbed my tiny hairbrush that I got solely because it fits in my glovebox, and my emergency lipgloss and hand cream while he’s at it. 

    That’s pretty much the least he can do, under the circumstances. 

  • Twig

     That’s pretty much the least he can do, under the circumstances.

    This is Buck Williams.  It’s never the least he can do.

  • matrixschmatrix

    There is no ‘least’ that our boy Buck can do. Fred identifies his conversation with Verna as showing a sliver of compassion- but in fact, he is apparently only asking her if there’s anything he can do so as to taunt her more effectively when he fails to do it. It’s actually significantly crueler than not saying anything.

    What’s really remarkable about Buck and Rayford, to me, is that they’re simultaneously as dickish and nasty as a Clint Eastwood character in a Leone movie _and_ unutterably lame. That’s actually kind of an accomplishment- they make for a far more effective negative example than a normal Travis Bickle or Tony Soprano, because there’s an allure to both of those characters, an aura of cool, no matter what horrible shit they do. These guys? Who on earth would want to imitate _them_?

  • Carstonio

    I read the hairbrush comment as more of Ellanjay’s sexism, with women apparently being so vain and simple that they think preserving their appearance takes precedence in the middle of a war.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It could have been sentimental, too. :

  • Carstonio

    If these were any other writers, I would agree. Not ones who treat independent females as villains or as future Stepford wives.

  • Zippy

    The tale of Verna’s comb in the hands of another writer:

    Vern: I brought a comb.

    Chris: What do we need a comb for?

    Vern: Well, if we get on TV we wanna look good, don’t we?

    Gordie: That’s a lot of thinking, Vern.

    Vern: Thanks.  

    Two hours later:

    Vern: What am I supposed to do, think of everything? I brought the comb!

    Teddy: Oh, great! You brought the comb! What did you bring a comb for? You don’t even have any hair!

  • Carstonio

    Civil Defense guys tell us there’s no fallout readings. That means this must have been done by the militia, trying to spare as much human life as possible.

    Yeah, because a group of hatful racist killers can be real softies when it comes to human life. Wouldn’t they have limited the bombings to neighborhoods populated by ethnic minorities?

  • http://mistermunshun.blogspot.com/ Carl Eusebius

    This entry highlights one of the reasons I started my blog on Twilight as an imitation of this one. Like Buck, Bella Swan is thoroughly unlikeable not just against the author’s intentions but because of what we’re supposed to like about her. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the novel now, and I don’t think we have ever actually read the dialogue of Bella’s friend Jessica. We hear about how she’s “nattering” or “going on” while Bella “isn’t really listening”, and so we never see what she says. Except for one time, when she’s talking about Edward Cullen. That’s the only time we actually get Jessica’s dialogue, because it’s the only time Bella is actually listening to her. This is supposed to make us identify with Bella’s True Love for Edward, but what it really does is reveal Bella’s narcissistic lack of concern for others.

    Just like Buck’s.

  • Turcano

    Quite a few internet commentators (most notably Spoony) have pointed out that, in the movies, Bella is the true monster in a franchise centered around vampires and werewolves.  Apparently that portrayal was faithful to the original novels.

  • aunursa

    But what sets Buck and Rayford apart from all those other unlikable heroes in otherwise likable stories is that the protagonists here in Left Behind are unintentionally unlikable.

    A glance into the hearts of Left Behind fans…

    Results of the Last Poll
    Who is your favorite character in the series?
    Buck Williams: 39%
    Rayford Steele: 24%
    Chloe Steele: 16%
    Chaim Rosenzweig: 6%
    Other: 6%
    Nicolae Carpathia: 4%
    Abdullah Ababneh: 2%
    Hattie Durham: 1%
    Irene Steele: 1%
    Leon Fortunato: 0%
    Viv Ivins: 0%

  • Matthew E.

     I’m intrigued by the 4% who voted for Nicky — was it simply a prank pulled by a handful of (possibly slacktivite) wags, or has the heartbeat of rebellion begun to beat in some young readers’ chests?

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’d have voted for Nicky. When I read the series (as a Christian), he was the only one I saw in any favourable light. This was because it was explained to me that Nicky was essentially being controlled the entire time: Nothing he ever did was of his own volition, be it by Satan or god or whatever, and yet he was damned anyway. That angered me and made me feel sorry for him.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Loretta said, “I’m just tellin’ her my story, as I assumed you wanted me to.”

    Buck was silent. Finally, he said, “Put her on, would you, Loretta?”

    I feel for Loretta. She’s so terrified of Buck that she’s tailoring her conversations with other people to what she perceives as his wishes, defensively making sure he knows it, and still getting that patented Buck attitude for her trouble. I wonder if he waves around that 2-A clearance card at New Hope when he isn’t getting his way.

  • Michael Pullmann

     I know there’s been a lot of talk in these entries and comments about how the inflexibility of Tim & Jerry’s prophecy checklist hamstrings’ the characters’ effectiveness as Rebel Fighters Against Satan. Nicolae’s temporary victory is preordained, so they can’t stop it. They know how the story ends, and are powerless to change that ending.

    Except there’s one thing they *can* do, precisely because they know how the story ends. They know that, once TurboJesus shows up, Satan loses. There is, to coin a phrase, no version of this where he comes out on top. The only shred of victory Satan can hope for is to cheat God out of as many souls as possible by denying them the Way, the Truth and the Life.

    The Tribulation Force has it within their power to deny Satan even that victory, with every soul they save and convert. If you accept the lousy cosmology they’ve been saddled with, then *that* should be their one and only goal. One more soul in Heaven equals one less in Hell. Save Verna Zee. Save Alice. Save Hattie. Save everyone they can, at every opportunity, at any cost. After all, what need to fear death when you know you’ll experience the Resurrection?

    A Trib Force that was actually heroic would be doing this. Instead, mankind is stuck with these assholes.

  • CE

    *Reads blog post* 
    I’m pretty sure there are anti-heroes that show more compassion than Buck and Rayford do. 

    Mild spoilers

    Snake Plissken showed a sliver of compassion to Maggie and Rorschach apologized once.

  • Münchner Kindl

    And Snake Plissken is (not only cool) drafted into a mission against his will.

    And Rorschach (in the movie, haven’t read the comic yet) is both utterly unlikeable and pitiful: he has an excuse for turning first into a vigilante and then a monster. He’s understandable without agreeing with it; and during the impossible decision on what to do about Ozymandis plan, he’s the one who makes a honest decision of dying for his principles that allow no compromise.

    And Rorschach would never have ignored others suffering, that’s what being a vigilante is about, punishing the bad guys in order to protect the innocent.

  • rm

     Munchner, do please read the print comic and if you think you can manage it please forget that execrable movie ever existed. They have nothing in common except the composition of some visual images.

    The way I see Rorschach in the comic is that his desire to protect the innocent has been frustrated, and so he’s turned into monstrous killer, but he is looking for a way back to sanity. On the first page he says he’d let all of New York die, and near the last he takes off his mask, shows his human face, and decides to die with them. He’s redeemed.

    And as a character he’s many times more realistically human than Buck, of course.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Munchner, do please read the print comic and if you think you can manage
    it please forget that execrable movie ever existed. They have nothing
    in common except the composition of some visual images.

    I don’t know if I’m interested enough for another try – the movie already had a lot of violence. And the whole idea of “let’s look at the superhero genre from an adult perspective” isn’t that fascinating to me, maybe because I read mostly franco-belgian comics and no Spiderman or Superman or similar.

  • Carstonio

    From my reading, writers like Moore and Miller seemed more restorative than rebellious. The original superhero comics did have more of an adult sensibility, although not to the same degree. The first comic where Batman tracks down Joe Chill struck me as dark when compared to the later Comics Code stories. Not that these are equal in sensibility to the comics you’re talking about, but the superhero genre has always deserved better than the simplistic, morally questionable treatment it received half a century ago, where it was assumed that heroes were entitled to unethical behavior in the service of an allegedly greater good.

  • Cactus_Wren

     I’m pretty sure there are anti-heroes that show more compassion than Buck and Rayford do.
    Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes shows more compassion than Buck and Rayford do, and he’s a self-described “high-functioning sociopath”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

    My jaundiced observation of “Left Behind” was that is was a sort of ethnic cleansing fantasy, where the glorious, supernatural born-again race is snatched to that very exclusive Pearly Gated community of many mansions (no doubt antebellum style) while the unregenerate inferior race of all things darkness get what uppity inferior sorts deserve…all hell thrown at them for not doing exactly as they were told.

    (Thanks to Kenneth Copeland for the phrase “glorious, supernatural born-again race.” I saw him ecstatically proclaiming it while channel surfing once….and the next time I happened to be channel surfing, I watched him explaining to two Black men, if memory serves, why one shouldn’t take it the way I did. Shame on me…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gregory-Peterson/1608524690 Gregory Peterson

    Oh….on the Left Behind website, LaHaye claims that the Maya “no longer exist”…which is no doubt news to my Mayan neighbors and a good many people in Mexico and Central America.
    “Will the [Mayan] calendar expire and the world will end?

    Their calendar has already been called into question, and their race has expired…”

    From: How will the world End?
    A Conversation with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
    leftbehind.com

  • P J Evans

     The Mayan calendar still works fine, too. They just add another cycle to it and keep going.

    Now, Ellanjay may be called into question, because they clearly can’t be bothered to do any research…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, this makes me think of something.  

    People want to look smart.  At least, a lot of people do.  For some, like Ellanjay, that means speaking authoritatively and doubtlessly on a matter with sincere self-assurance.  That might seem like it makes you look smart, especially to people unfamiliar with what you are speaking on, but the problem is that when the content of what you say is untrue, you end up looking dumber than if you had said nothing in the first place, at least to those who actually know something about the subject on which you speak.  

    That is why you check your facts before giving a response, and that is why you cultivate a sense of honest intellectual humbleness, and admit when something is outside your scope of knowledge.  Being ignorant of something does not make you dumb, particularly if you can take steps to rectify that ignorance.  But pretending you know something you do not will make you look like a fool, particularly when you feel the need to save face by never backing down from an unsupportable position.  

  • Makabit

    Oh….on the Left Behind website, LaHaye claims that the Maya “no longer exist”…which is no doubt news to my Mayan neighbors and a good many people in Mexico and Central America. 

    Huh? Maya are all over the place. I had a kid in my class whose family spoke Maya at home, a couple of years ago.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I guess it comes from all the “Mayan Empire no longer exists” stuff that floats around, and so folks think the Maya went extinct instead of becoming the local population instead.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve read the claim that they abandoned their civilization, possibly due to environmental calamity. Droughts have destroyed many cities in human history. I would like to think that Mayans would have eventually gotten ahead of the Arabs and Europeans and Chinese in science and intellectualism.

  • PandaRosa

    At least I hope LeHaye is right about the calendar and the end of the world. I have a lot to do that day, and  it’s like having a flat tire in rush hour, having the world end would just ruin it for me.

  • Lunch Meat

    Jenkins typed those words: “busy,” “emergency” and “workers.” And yet the meaning of those words do not seem to have registered with him. He presents them, and Buck reacts to them, as just another set of obstacles, just more annoying others getting in Buck’s way. Jenkins even tells us that the scene includes “squad cars, ambulances, fire trucks” — so this is a crowd of first responders who are “busy” responding when Buck nearly runs them down. Yet Buck and Jenkins regard them as government bureaucrats.

    Did Jenkins even consider what they might be “busy” doing? Does he think that EMTs, firefighters, and police officers hang out talking on their phones, setting up barricades and checking security clearances? I’m imagining Buck watching them pull injured people out of piles of rubble, and impatiently waving them over so he can get through. And then getting irritated that the screams of the wounded are so loud, and at the blood that the emergency workers are getting on his shiny 2-A clearance.

  • Shashi Sathiraju

    What really strikes me is just how off Buck is in regards to the whole disaster. We saw the effects of Superstorm Sandy, and that’s nothing compared to the firepower unleashed on Chicago in this book. And yet, somehow, Buck, a news reporter, can somehow out rank the emergency personnel who are working to restore some semblance of normalcy in an utter disaster.

    Astonishing. 

  • rm

    Anyway, if those bombs had been nuclear, the radiation would have traveled a lot farther than this already.

    I guess the radiation is also traveling on foot.

  • Some other guy

    no fallout readings

    Fallout readings?  Shouldn’t it be radiation readings? 

    I know again I am focusing on a simple thing but it is one of those things that makes think I am reading a book and causes you to lose your train of thought.

    I would have written something like
    The DOE boys were here and said the radiation levels are normal, they acted real suprised, they said all their teams are getting the same readings, no higher than typical back ground radiation.

    But then again the authors probably don’t even know that there is normal back ground radiation, research no time to do that and write everyday.

    Fallout is what they remember hearing about back in the fifties.

  • Ken

    The sequence is thus presented as though everyone else were just
    commuting or running errands while Buck and Buck alone has an urgent
    need to get somewhere.

    Maybe they are just running errands.  These are, after all, people who by-and-large shrugged off the disappearance of all the world’s children within a few weeks.  Compared to that, the non-nuclear destruction of a major city isn’t that big a deal.

    I am reminded of Ted Chiang’s Hell is the Absence of God, set in a world where angels frequently appear. That means people don’t see the manifestations as particularly miraculous, and the general response is a vague annoyance at the property damage – none of it covered by insurance, of course, since it’s an act of God.

    (I would like to apologize for comparing Chiang’s story to LB.  If you’ve read it, you know it says more about faith in twenty pages than L&J manage in twenty books.)

  • fraser

     What Ken says about Chiang.

  • rikalous

    @CE: Rorshach was many terrible things, but stick him in a room with the Antichrist and Nicky wouldn’t live long enough to finish offering him a job. Heck, he’d probably go after God for kidnapping all those kids.

    They probably do in Japanese.

    Staring is jiiiii~, I know that much. 

  • Bificommander

    I like how Buck has no problem bragging about being the Anti Christ’s lackey. His real thought at the end of this post was probably “Either she becomes a believer, or I’m gonna lose my ability to tell policemen to take a hike because I’m so important.”

    Okay, so the official story that the policemen believe is that the militia sorta-nuked Chicago. Wasn’t Nicky’s official point of these bombings to make it clear that no one could oppose him? And yet he presents it to the public as a case where an extremely powerful militia is destroying cities left and right and he’s nearly powerless to stop them. In a real dictatorship, this moment of monumental failure would be the moment for at least some of the 10 ambassadors to prepare to backstab Nicky and replace him.

  • Bificommander

    I like how Buck has no problem bragging about being the Anti Christ’s lackey. His real thought at the end of this post was probably “Either she becomes a believer, or I’m gonna lose my ability to tell policemen to take a hike because I’m so important.”

    Okay, so the official story that the policemen believe is that the militia sorta-nuked Chicago. Wasn’t Nicky’s official point of these bombings to make it clear that no one could oppose him? And yet he presents it to the public as a case where an extremely powerful militia is destroying cities left and right and he’s nearly powerless to stop them. In a real dictatorship, this moment of monumental failure would be the moment for at least some of the 10 ambassadors to prepare to backstab Nicky and replace him.

  • veejayem

    “We can forgive a character who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving children …” unless of course you’re the kind of LB-fan or Romney-voter who believes that it is irresponsible of the poor to actually have children in the first place.

    I love to read, love books and my bookcases are crowded out. But I think I could find room for “The Heroism and Compassion of Buck Williams”. After all, it would be a very slim volume.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    More Skewed Slightly to the Left, following directly from last time:

    “Fuckshit!”

    It wasn’t the flurry of emergency workers that caused Jane to cry out, nor was it the fact that they were filling the street, blocking her path, forcing her to bring the motorcycle to another screeching halt.

    It was that they included police.

    One of them approached the motorcycle.  She said, “What are you doing on the streets?”

    “His wife is missing,” Jane said, gesturing to Cameron, who was doing his best to be invisible, “Last anyone heard she was in the open.”

    The officer nodded, “Same as everyone else, try not to get-” she saw Cameron’s face.  “Aren’t you Buck Williams?”

    Cameron though of a lot of things he could say, but in the end it all boiled down to one simple truth: he wasn’t a good liar.  “Yes,” he admitted.

    “We have orders to arrest you.”

    Cameron was surprised, “They want me alive?”

    “Those orders came from the ones who dropped the bomb,” Jane said.

    “That’s not lost on us.  Good luck.”

    “To you as well,” Cameron said.

    “Cameron, notebook,” Jane said.  Cameron pulled the small notebook from his pocket and gave it to Jane.  She found an empty page and quickly wrote a number on it, then tore out the page and handed it to the police officer, “If you can find a working landline there’s non-governmental relief efforts being run from here.  If you could coordinate with them maybe together you can save more lives.”

    The officer took the page.  “Thanks.”

    “If anything official comes of me giving you that number I will personally hunt you down and kill you myself,” Jane told the officer.

    “Understood,” she said.  Then she waved them on, “Try not to get in anyone’s way.”

    “Will do,” Jane said.

    It was easier said than done.  Fire and ambulance workers were rushing to and from various buildings, in some places EMTs were just treating people on the pavement.

    Jane was able to navigate the ever changing crowd, and soon they were back to mostly abandoned streets and up to speed.  She considered shouting, “Carpathia is the Antichrist,” as they drove away, but decided it wasn’t the time.

    Cameron just hung on to Jane, afraid of falling off the bike.

    Eventually they reached their destination.  Chloe wasn’t there.  Nor was her contact.

    Once they were sure she wasn’t in one of the nearby buildings, Jane and Cameron met back at the motorcylce.

    “If she followed protocol,” Cameron said, “which she would, she’d be headed back to her own shelter.”

    Jane pointed, “That way,” and after a pause, “And more territory than we’ve already covered.”

    They got back on the bike.

    “We need to go slow enough to get a look around from here on out,” Cameron said.

    “I know,” Jane assured him, and so they began the longer journey, going slower.  The search for Chloe had begun.

  • http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/?zx=c2c4948a7233f8b6 Mouse

    If y’all are curious, in the kids version of the series, they have a conversation between Verna and Loretta. Naturally as TV Tropes would put it, Strawman has a point.

    http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/2011/06/brace-yourself-for-death-of-meta-verna.html

  • fraser

    After hurricanes, I’ve seen people, without any official direction, turn big intersections into a four-way stop–everyone takes a turn, everyone on the side streets eventually gets out.
    Buck wouldn’t stop.

  • Jenny Islander

    I’ve seen assorted photos of ordinary people–joggers, kids on their way to school, etc.–getting up on boxes in the middle of a 4-way intersection to direct traffic and doing a good job too.  

    Buck would get up in the middle with a bullhorn to shout “ALL Y’ALL PULL OFF MY ROAD, MY CLEARANCE IS BIGGER THAN YOURS.”

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    “documents, personal belongings, hidden money, anything like that”
    Not in this car, but there’s another one stashed in a long-term parking garage with money and forged identity papers hidden in the door panel. Basic precaution when you’re in a resistance group and may need to run at any time.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    L&J could have learned from Mike Ehrmantraut.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I think I’ve figured something out.

    In L&J’s philosophy, you mark yourself as good by the people you hate. Nothing else. It is therefore centrally important that Buck be shown to hate Vera at every opportunity. Hating Vera is more important than loving his wife. Loving his wife is even a big nothing.

    If these jackasses had written The Empire Strikes Back, Luke would not have had visions of his friends and gone to The City in the Clouds to save them. He’d have had visions that Darth Vader was there instead. And then he’d have had R2 call up a City in the Clouds operator and told them to patch him through to Darth Vader so Luke could go “neener-neener” on a holo. And Luke would’ve griped about the operator being inefficient. 

  • Mary Kaye

    fraser wrote: 

    After hurricanes, I’ve seen people, without any official direction, turn
    big intersections into a four-way stop–everyone takes a turn, everyone
    on the side streets eventually gets out. 

    After the Loma Prieta 7.1 earthquake in the Bay Area, random individuals ended up directing traffic at key intersections in San Francisco.  The press asked them how that happened and they tended to say something along the lines of either “I was walking by and realized there’s be an accident if someone didn’t step in, so I did” or “I saw someone else doing it and he/she looked exhausted, so I took over.”  Some people directed traffic for hours.  It’s very likely that this prevented serious accidents–those intersections are scary.  SF is a very tightly compressed city and traffic can be like whitewater in a canyon.

    Disasters bring out the best and worst in people.  They just bring out the worst in Buck, though.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I vaguely remember the 1977 NY blackout hitting the news – I was 12, living in Texas – and while Wikipedia says that overall it was one of those that brought out the worst, I do recall a story about a girl my age who was out on an intersection directing traffic with flashlights.

  • WalterC

    I think Buck is the type of person who has the worst brought out of him at the drop of a hat. He seems like the kind of person, the instant he smelled the faint aroma of smoke, who would shove little kids and people in wheelchairs out of the way as he makes a mad dash to the emergency exits. If he was in a disaster movie, he would probably the first to argue in favor of abandoning anyone who got injured. If it was a locked room scenario, he would start volunteering other people to be killed and eaten for the survival of the group, hours or even days before the situation got that desperate. 

  • aunursa

    Let’s tighten this comment up:I think Buck is the type of person who has the worst brought out of him at the drop of a hat. He seems like the kind of person, the instant he smelled the faint aroma of smoke, who would shove little kids and people in wheelchairs out of the way as he makes a mad dash to the emergency exits. If he was in a disaster movie, he would probably the first to argue in favor of abandoning anyone who got injured. If it was a locked room scenario, he would start volunteering other people to be killed and eaten for the survival of the group, hours or even days before the situation got that desperate George Costanza

  • Alicia

    Heh.

    I can see Buck in an adventure movie. He and Chloe are racing through the catacombs of Nicolae Carpathia’s lair, only minutes ahead of the Global Community troops. Chloe, being a woman, trips over a rock and lands hard on the ground, twisting her ankle. She clambers to her feet but looks a little unsteady.

    Buck: “Are you okay? Can you run?”

    Chloe: “I think so. It doesn’t feel broken.”

    She takes a few ginger steps forward, wincing. 

    Buck: “Jeez, that does not look good. There’s no way you can run on that.”

    Chloe: “No, no, I think I can make it. Just give me a second…”

    The sounds of their pursuers get closer.

    Buck: “Jeez, there’s not a lot of time left. I better go on ahead…”

    Chloe: “Buck!”

    Buck: “Don’t be scared. I’m sure it’ll turn out okay! Besides, you’re saved; you’re assured heaven no matter what happens! Good luck!”

  • Lori

    The problem with this is that Busk is also supposedly saved and assured heaven. As Fred has repeatedly noted, he certainly doesn’t act like he believes that. None of the Tribbles do. 

  • WalterC

     Naturally! In the hands of a good author, the Tribulation Force would probably go through a phase of recklessness once they realized that not only were they shielded by God in this lifetime, they were guaranteed an eternity in paradise once they finally died. Why not shout the Good News from the rooftops, knowing full well that even if Carpathia called down his unholy lightning to roast you like a chicken, all that would mean is that you would get to rejoice with your departed loved ones a few years sooner than expected?

    (Remember, none of these guys are looking at a full and happy life even if they survived the Tribulation; the world will end in less than 6 years, and only after becoming literally Hell on Earth.)

    My theory — deep down they all realize that eternity in a state of mindless submission to the being that slaughtered their loved ones and unleashed disease, famine, tyranny, and thermonuclear armageddon on the survivors is basically Hell by another name. They’re desperate to stay alive not because they want more time to evangelize (they pretty much don’t do that for most of the series) but because they want to postpone their inevitable psychic annihilation at the hands of their “Turbo”-Jesus.

    I guess that’s the terrifying thing about their theology. The only difference between their Christ and their Antichrist is that Antichrist is less powerful. Everything else is the same — the tyranny, the mind-control, the murder. The Antichrist is just too weak to enslave, brainwash, and kill the same number of people as the Christ.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Naturally! In the hands of a good author, the Tribulation Force would probably go through a phase of recklessness once they realized that not only were they shielded by God in this lifetime, they were guaranteed an eternity in paradise once they finally died. Why not shout the Good News from the rooftops, knowing full well that even if Carpathia called down his unholy lightning to roast you like a chicken, all that would mean is that you would get to rejoice with your departed loved ones a few years sooner than expected?

    You know, this makes me think of the classic hypothetical scenario, what would you do if you suddenly had super powers?  How would you use them?  What would you do?  

    In this case, the scenario is that the characters discover that they cannot stay dead, being killed just takes them out of the picture for the rest of the tribulation, nothing more.  They are now guaranteed immortality.  The Left Behind series asks, what would you do if you knew God was real and would raise you from the dead as long as you said the magic words of submission and believed in Him?  

    In the case of the Tribbles, the answer is “Act like a total douche.”  They got it made and they no it.  None of their actions will have (direct) negative consequences to them, and those who do not know what they do have no such advantage.  They could have used this to spread the Good News, to deny the Anti-Christ his gains in spite of his preordained downfall, and actually accomplish something righteous.  

    But no, they use their abilities on self-aggrandizement, mocking and belittling others, keeping it to their own selfish ends.  

    If only they used their powers for good… 

  • http://twitter.com/TheKingleMingle Peter

     Bear in mind that they worship a God who is very not keen on suicide. I guess it’d be possible to argue that they don’t want to be reckless in case Turbo Jesus accuses them of being suicidal.

  • aunursa

    In Book #4, Buck puts himself and Ken Ritz in danger by having Ritz fly him to Minneapolis to spirit a badly-injured Chloe out of a GC hospital.

    In Book #11, Buck desperately seeks to break into a GC prison in order to rescue Chloe from the clutches of Nicky’s minions, in an attempt that would have certainly put himself and several other RTCs in danger.

  • WalterC

    That just my problem. Why would you to take pains to rescue a believer instead of concentrating all your resources on saving as many nonbelievers as possible? Life and death shouldn’t matter to these people; the only people who stand to suffer from actually being killed are the nonbelievers.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    One almost suspects that L&J realized it would be a very short novel indeed if all their main characters died and went to heaven so easily.

    It might also evoke unwanted comparisons to brown people who also believe they’ll get to heaven if they go into battle defeating a secular or religious enemy, and we all “know” white people don’t do that sort of thing. (right-wing racist holy war ranters don’t count)

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Basically, Buck is Zapp Brannigan. 

  • http://twitter.com/TheKingleMingle Peter

     And of course if he was the one to fall, he’d do a Millhouse; “I can’t go on, you two go ahead… and carry me with you”

  • P J Evans

     The kind of person who, if he had a bomb shelter in his back yard, would shoot anyone else trying to get in.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Whenever people predict disasters (nuclear war being the main one I’m thinking of), they talk about how everyone’s gonna be violent and out for themselves and other people are going to be your biggest threat next to radiation and anarchy and hatred will reign…

    But I think that’s a big lie. That’s just not what the vast majority people do during disasters. Most people say, “how can I help?” And then they do it, if they can. It’s the natural impulse for everyone except the Buck Williamses of the world. We have evolved as a social species, and we know, deep in our guts, that we literally can’t live without each other. Our minds can be twisted around and confused by other stuff, and there are some people who have been so completely twisted that it may not be possible to untwist them. But the human species is not, as a whole, untrustworthy and stupid. If we were, we’d have died out long before we figured out how to make pots.

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    Chloe – the Rise of Antichrist

    She opened her eyes, her face pressed into the soft velvet of the roof of her range rover.  She pushed herself up, wincing at the soreness in her muscles.

    The explosion had flipped the SUV on its back and crumpled it like an empty beer can  She crawled toward the smashed side window, gagging at the blood covering the…

    Blood?  She had been driving alone?  Whose blood was this?  She looked herself over.  Her expensive, tailored suit had been turned into stained tattered rags, but she was still whole and intact.  She felt over her head.  Apart from a slight headache, she felt fine.  Where did all the blood come from?

    She crawled out through the smashed windshield.  She was lucky to have not been trapped.  That would have been a hard way to go.

    Red emergency lights flashed like a discotheque in Hell.  Sirens blared, smoke and people were everywhere.  One of the EMT’s ran over to her.  “Miss, you shouldn’t try to move.”  Then he recognized her.  “Madam Secretary!  I… didn’t…”

    She waved him away.  “I’m all right.”

    “Begging your pardon, Ma’am, but you’re covered in blood.  You should really get checked out.”

    She looked down at the drying crust that covered the remains of her shirt.  “Not mine.”  She chuckled.  “Well actually it used to be.  Tend to the others.  I’ll make my way out.”

    He looked at her confused, but nodded.  She limped along the side of the road, feeling the strength returning to her limbs.  Not yet time for me to die I guess.  Got too much to accomplish in the next few years.

    “Chloe?”

    She looked up and saw Cameron.  She felt oddly touched that he had come looking for her.  “I’m still with you, dear.  You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

    “We’ll see.”  She saw him move his arm, but didn’t realize his intent, until he fired the gun.

    Her eyes opened up facing the smoke filled sky.  She sat up and saw Cameron on the ground being handcuffed by a dozen GC officers.  All of them were staring at her.  Cameron could have escaped just then, if the twerp had even considered it.

    She got to her feet.  “Take him and charge him with regicide.  Or attempted regicide.  Well he DID succeed I supposed.”  She chuckled.  “A thorny issue for the law to wrangle out, but I guess it doesn’t matter since I AM the law.”

    She knelt next to him and cupped his chin so that he looked straight into her eyes.  “I killed you,” he whispered.  “I saw your head explode.”

    She shook her head.  “Not enough gun.”
     

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That last line is SO CREEPY :O

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

     Have to admit… I swiped it from the Saint of Killers.  Bear in mind, he speaks this line right after emerging from the smoke, after having a nuke dropped on him.

  • David Starner

    When he says  “I report directly to the potentate.”, I want the emergency workers to turn to him and ask when help, when supplies will be there. Especially when he proves it; you have a direct line to the ruler of the world, and we need help. Heck, he’s the Potentate; of course he has relief on the way, just tell us how long it’s going to be before it gets here.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    The characters will never ask those questions, because Ellenjay had no interest in them or their answers.  The suffering of other people does not interest them.  The working details of the world they have created do not interest them.  The unfortunate implications of their theology do not interest them.  The only thing that mattered to them was that the Official PM End Times Checklist was followed to the letter., and that the two viewpoint self-inserts are present to see everything unfold for the benefit of the reader.  The result is that the two primary protagonists are as inhumanly sociopathic as the authors who created them and the belief system they follow.  That the characters are not shown doing anything constructive or beneficial with the power they have been given isn’t a bug, it’s a feature–in their world, power and authority exist primarily to mark one’s status against other people and keep oneself as comfortable as possible, not for anything mundane such as easing suffering or supporting the common good.  In the world of Left Behind, self-aggrandizement is the highest possible good. 

  • Münchner Kindl

    Buck tells the officer he has to get to the Drake hotel, and he seems to
    mean it, even though this is the one place in all of the Chicago region
    that he knows Chloe can’t be.

    This actually started the moment Chloe’s phone call with Buck broke off and Buck started searching for her without having any clue* where Chloe is (I don’t think she even mentioned which compass direction she was going?). From the start tearing off to search for a loved one is an emotional and touching, but utterly stupid response; doubly so if all streets can be expected to be a chaos, as seen from the newspaper parking lot.

    With better writers, this acknowledgment of human failure/ stupidity and powerlessness in the face of overwhelming odds could be used for character introspection and devleopment, and even a show of faith: not a prayer to God “Fulfill my wish and show me where Chloe is”, but “I accept I’m powerless and frightened, I accept that other people are suffering and you can’t fulfill all wishes, so whether or not Chloe is safe and I can find her, just please give me strength and courage and comfort now cos I need some shoulder to lean on” or similar.

    Instead, they try to show Buck’s awesomeness with his high-level Mark of the Beast card (thanks for that connection!), and fail to see why they fail to impress us.

    * Fred complained earlier when Buck when to NY how the authors had no idea of its geography. But here, in Chicago, where they apparently know what they are writing about, they manage to leave a non-native reader confused about where the heck Buck is going. In better books with better editors, they include maps of the places where the action takes place in the front or back cover. In other books, writers don’t drop the name of the road, but describe where generally people are going – or even skip the whole damn driving description!


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