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.

  • 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.

  • EllieMurasaki

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

  • 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/

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

    L&J could have learned from Mike Ehrmantraut.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • GeniusLemur

     If L&J were more concerned with actual Christian teaching or even simple humanity, they could have done something really cool here with Buck rushing out to help Chloe, realizing he’s got no chance at all, looking at some stranger who’s been injured or something, and saying, “Well, here’s someone I CAN help. I can only pray someone else does the same thing for Chloe.”

    And later on, he can find his prayers were answered: somebody stopped to help Chloe.

    To be fair to L&J, I thought of a way Buck could be even worse here.
    “You see this ID? I report directly to Carpathia! All of you are going to stop wasting time with that burning building and go find my wife! Give me that radio, I need to talk to your chief! What are you waiting for! Get moving! If you don’t find my wife, I’ll tell Carpathia you weren’t cooperative, and he’ll get me a duffle bag full of your heads!”

    Now why does that seem all too plausible?

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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://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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • Lori

    For some reason this made me of a story from 9/11. There were two men who worked together in one of the towers and had been best friends for years and years. One of them was in a wheelchair and it quickly became clear that he was not going to be able to be evacuated. His friend refused to leave him and both men were killed when the tower fell.

    G & I (who are prone to odd, sort of philosophical discussions) got to talking about what we would do in those circumstances. The end result was that we both said that if we were the one unable to get out we’d want the other to go without us, no sense in both of us dying. We also both said that if we were the able-bodied friend we would refuse to go.

    For some reason this irked G (it seemed to tweak a protective instinct) and he insisted that of course I should go if I could, that he would not want to die knowing that staying with him had unnecessarily cost me my life. I pointed out that we both knew I wouldn’t do well trying to go forward knowing that I had left someone dear to me to die, and why would he want me to suffer like that?

    Back and forth, back and forth. We finally reached a compromise. If there was a strong likelihood that I could get out if I left, I’d go and try not to feel guilty about it later because I did what he wanted me to do. Take good care of his music collection, spend the oddball insurance policy on which I was still the beneficiary on a good party, etc.  However, if it was a longshot I was staying because I didn’t want to die in some stairwell surrounded by strangers knowing that the last thing I did on earth was leave him to die with strangers too.  (Yes, we’re deeply odd. Why do you ask?) Clearly that was an entirely hypothetical conversation, but to the best of our ability to imagine the situation, we were saying what we really felt about it.

    Buck obviously has no friends, but if he did he’s shove his wheelchair-bound buddy out of the way so fast he’d tip the chair over on the way to the exit. If he was the one unable to get out he’d guilt his friend into staying and never feel a twinge about it.

    Even after years of discussing these books and who-remembers-how-many versions of this same conversation that we’ve had I’m still surprised every time by what a total asshole this character is and on some level I can’t understand how anyone can read these books and not notice that.

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

    As Fred goes through these books I am repeatedly struck with amazement that I overlooked just how horribly unreal and bad the characterization and writing are in these books.

    A lesser version of this is a story I once read that had stuck in my mind a little bit and had some nice mystery/fantasy angles (psychic characters etc), but when I went back to re-read it, I couldn’t get past the first few chapters because of persistent bad mechanics (putting “periods/commas/etc outside quotes of dialog”. as an example) in writing*.

    I think I may have been more interested in seeing the plot (such as it was) evolve than in seeing the horrible dog’s breakfast Jenkins made of the characters, and TBH I did skim the conversion/confess-your-faith scenes.

    So Fred is doing us all a service with these desconstructions and analysis pieces, because he highlights just how absurd and out of touch L&J are in regard to anything requiring realism in writing.

    —-
    * If anyone wants the story link just post anonymously on my blog and put
    your email address in when it asks. I see them, nobody else does.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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://www.facebook.com/susan.paxton.94 Susan Paxton

    Is it just me or does Buck Williams remind anyone else of how Mitt Romney would behave in this situation? Except of course he’d have a dog strapped to the top of the car.

  • phranckeaufile

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

  • 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)

  • aunursa

    Well, plus Mitt Romney would swerve out of his way in order to run as many old ladies and firefighters as he could.  He’s that evil.

  • WalterC

     I’d like to think that Mitt Romney would at least have a helicopter or something. Say what you will about the man, but I don’t see him having to sponge off random strangers just to get across town.

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

    Joshua Jordan would be Mitt Romney, helicopter and all. :P

    A more appropriate comparison might be Dick Cheney, or maybe some of the less couth Republican politicians out there.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    For some reason this made me think of a story from 9/11. There were two men who worked together in one of the towers and had been best friends for years and years. One of them was in a wheelchair and it quickly became clear that he was not going to be able to be evacuated. His friend refused to leave him and both men were killed when the tower fell.

    I find that scenario odd.  I thought that standard procedure in the event of an emergency evacuation from such a building was to abandon the wheelchair itself, and the able-bodied would be expected to carry the disabled.  Pull them right out of the wheelchair, throw them over your shoulder or across your back, and head for the stairs.  


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X