NRA: The running man

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 92-96

Buck Williams wants something.

That’s rare in these books. Part of what makes our heroes so hard to like — apart from their acting like jerks most of the time — is that for huge chunks of this series they don’t seem to want anything. That makes it difficult for readers to understand them. And it makes it impossible for us to cheer them on, hoping that they succeed in getting what they want.

Those listless sections just blandly unfold with events happening to Buck and Rayford, or happening near them, or on TV screens in front of them. But the protagonists don’t do anything themselves because there’s nothing they want.

Here, Buck wants something. He wants to find Chloe.

That gives this chapter a momentum and a life that’s usually lacking in these books. It’s the one big thing that Jerry Jenkins gets right in this chapter that allows readers to hurdle past all the other things here, large and small, that he gets horribly wrong.

Just consider the basic skeleton of this scene. We have a man wandering through the still-burning ruins of a former city, trying to find his wife. He does not know where she is or how badly she may be injured. He doesn’t know what he will do if he finds her, but he has to find her.

That “has to” makes a difference between reading this chapter and slogging through the four that came before it.

This basic outline works. Dozens of different short stories could be written based on this basic premise. It could be the basis for an action movie or for an art film. It could be the setting for an action-packed first-person-shooter video game (just add zombies) or for a Myst-like puzzle game (just add fragments of a cryptic diary).

For once we have a scene in which the basic dramatic situation is actually dramatic. For once we can — at least briefly — understand Buck Williams.

This is still a Left Behind novel, of course, and so Jenkins sets about sabotaging this scenario at every turn. And even if the underlying generic scenario is sound, we don’t enter into it generically. We already know too much else about Buck and about the absurd nonradioactive-nuclear sorta-destruction of Chicago to be fully caught up in the scene. But Buck finally wants something, and so readers can finally want something too.

The initial set-up for this was pretty solid. Chloe was driving Buck’s fancy new Range Rover, racing to escape Chicago before the bombs fell. Buck was on the phone with her when suddenly:

He heard an explosion, tires squealing, a scream, and then silence.

That’s good stuff. If this were a TV show, that would work as the cliffhanger end of part 1 of a big sweeps-week two-parter.

But that was all the way back on page 63, and Jenkins sapped all the urgency out of that set-up by giving us several more scenes in which Buck drives out to Loretta’s house, or calls his dad in Arizona, or does just about anything other than racing to the rescue.

The final scene in Chapter 4 drained a bit more of the tension out of this scenario as the cell phone he borrowed from Verna Zee rings:

Buck shouted “Hello! Chloe?” before he had even hit the receive button. His fingers were shaking so badly he nearly dropped the phone. He pushed the button and shouted, “Chloe?”

“No, Cameron, it’s Verna. But I just heard from the office that Chloe tried to reach you there.”

“Did somebody give her the number of this phone?”

“No. They didn’t know you had my phone.”

“I’m trying to call her now, Verna. The line is busy.”

“Keep trying, Cameron. She didn’t say where she was or how she was, but at least you know she’s alive.”

Finding out that Chloe is still alive lowers the stakes here. Jenkins doesn’t seem to realize that, as he’s more focused on who has which phone number. Throughout this chapter, he seems to have the impression that the details of phone-tag are more exciting than the details — largely omitted — of a man trying to make his way through a just-nuked city.

So Chapter 5 begins with all the excitement of Buck repeatedly pressing redial.

Suddenly his phone rang again.

“Chloe!”

“No, sorry, Cameron, it’s Verna again.”

“Verna, please! I’m trying to reach Chloe!”

Look again at that previous snippet of dialogue from the end of Chapter 4 and notice how kind Verna is being to Buck. Then keep in mind that Buck is, at this very moment, speaking on Verna’s cell phone, which she generously loaned him and which is now his only hope of finding Chloe since he’s just also wrecked Verna’s car, which she also generously loaned him.

Even here, as she’s calling to provide Buck with the very thing he desperately needs — a sense of where Chloe is — he still reflexively treats her like her very existence is a burden to him.

I can’t figure out what we’re supposed to make of this. If we look at Verna’s words and actions in these two chapters in isolation, then it seems like Jenkins is presenting the redemption of Verna Zee (redemption in the literary, not the theological sense). But if we judge by Buck’s reaction to her, then it seems we’re still supposed to view her as some kind of sensibly shod villain.

Verna says Chloe left a message with “somebody in our office.” (Didn’t everyone leave the office? Just let it go.) Chloe said she crashed “the other way on Lake Shore Drive.”

That’s not a very precise location, and Jenkins has Verna and Buck discuss the various possible meanings of “the other way” for half a page. But now at least Buck has a general sense of where Chloe might be. He has a reason to run and somewhere to run to, so he starts running.

Buck was in reasonably good shape for a man in his early thirties, but now his joints ached and his lungs pleaded for air as he sprinted to Chicago Avenue and headed east toward the lake.

Nothing heightens suspense like constant reminders from the author that he used to live in Chicago and knows his way around the city.

When he finally got to the Drive, he found it empty. He knew it was barricaded from the north at the Michigan Avenue exit. It had to have been blocked at the far south end too. Gasping, he hurdled the guardrail, jogged to the middle, heard the clicking of meaningless traffic lights, and raced across to the other side.

Yes, the streets are undamaged by the nuclear assault. The traffic lights are still functioning, and Jenkins’ post-nuclear Chicago basically seems to look just like pre-nuclear Chicago, but without all the cars and people. Just let it go.

He jogged south, knowing Chloe was alive but not knowing what he might find. The biggest question now, assuming Chloe didn’t have some life-threatening injury, was whether those print-outs of Bruce’s personal commentaries — or worse, the computer itself — might have fallen into the wrong hands. Surely, parts of that narrative were quite clear about Bruce’s belief that Nicolae Carpathia was the Antichrist.

I’m pretty sure that Nicolae is quite clear about Nicolae’s belief that he is the Antichrist, so I’m not sure what the worry is that he might end up reading Bruce’s notes. If anything, Nicolae would likely find Bruce’s manuscript reassuring, confirming that the “Tribulation Force” had no plans to disrupt his plans.

But Buck doesn’t just seem worried that Nicolae might get a hold of Bruce’s transcripts. He also seems worried that Bruce’s notes might wind up leaked to the public. The members of the Tribulation Force are very strange evangelists — people who regard their gospel as a closely guarded secret that must be kept from the unsaved world at all costs.

Buck keeps running, hitting redial over and over as he goes.

Finally, Chloe answered her phone.

Having not planned what to say, Buck found himself majoring on the majors. “Are you all right? Are you hurt? Where are you?” He hadn’t told her he loved her or that he was scared to death about her or that he was glad she was alive. He would assume she knew that until he could tell her later.

She sounded weak.

Chloe is badly hurt and still trapped in the wrecked SUV. She thinks he’s probably only a mile or so away.

This is where most versions of this story would have the searcher say something like, “You just hold on, I’ll be there soon,” before pushing on with their last ounce of strength, sprinting the final mile to the wrecked car. We would learn the details of the crash and what befell the victim upon his arrival.

But since we’re in the version of this story involving Buck Williams and told by Jerry Jenkins, Buck stops running and focuses on interviewing Chloe over the telephone.

This allows Jenkins to describe the same scene for us twice within the span of five pages. “Buck, the Range Rover seems to be stuck between a tree and a concrete abutment,” Chloe says on the phone here on page 97. “The Range Rover was lodged between the trunk and lower branches of a large tree and the concrete abutment,” we read later, when Buck arrives at the scene on page 102.

“I was doing about 60,” she said, “when I thought I saw an exit ramp. I took it, and that’s when I heard the bomb go off.”

“The bomb?”

“Yes, Buck, surely you know a bomb exploded in Chicago.”

One bomb? Buck thought. Maybe it was merciful she was out for all the bombs that followed.

And mercifully, Buck doesn’t have to tell her about all the bombs that followed while she was unconscious, because they apparently did so little damage to Chicago that she’ll never notice the difference.

Unfortunately, the bombs striking California at this point in our story don’t seem quite so ineffectual.

While Buck has been busily running across the pristine landscape of post-nuclear Chicago, Rayford Steele has been flying away from San Francisco. Jenkins inserted a brief, one-page Rayford scene smack in the middle of Buck’s run toward Chloe.

That kind of interruption can sometimes help to heighten the tension of a suspenseful scene, a kind of head-feint distraction that makes readers all the more anxious to get back to the first scene and find out what happens next.

Here, though, Jenkins is cutting away from the suspense of a traffic accident with a brief interruption off-handedly noting the death of a million people. Once we’re reminded of how high the stakes are in San Francisco, it’s hard to retain much concern for whatever might be at stake back on Lake Shore Drive.

Any remaining doubts Rayford Steele had about the incredible and instant power that Nicolae Carpathia wielded were eradicated a few minutes after the Condor 216 left the ground at San Francisco International. Through the privately bugged intercom he heard one of Carpathia’s aides ask, “Now, sir, on San Francisco?”

“Trigger,” came the whispered reply.

… [Rayford] and McCullum looked at each other as their earphones came alive with startled cries from the control tower. “Mayday! Mayday! We’re being attacked from the air!” The concussions knocked out communications, but Rayford knew the bombs themselves would easily take out that whole tower, not to mention the rest of the airport and who knew what portion of the surrounding area.

So everyone Rayford spoke to during his recent stop at that airport is now dead. He knew they would be killed, but he did nothing to warn them or to try in any way to save them.

Rayford didn’t know how much longer he could take being the devil’s own pilot.

Yes, Nicolae’s mass-murder is really beginning to annoy Rayford Steele.

  • aunursa

    Poor Chloe. 

    Here in Book 3, she’s in a car accident, and has a broken ankle, a
    sprained wrist, and injuring to her shoulder and knee.

    In Book 4, Buck learns that his wife was not so fortunate.  God caused the Wrath of the Lamb Earthquake, I suppose, in order to demonstrate his benevolence to the millions of undecided.  Unfortunately, the Earthquake caused Chloe to be struck by a section of roofing.  Chunks of asphalt are embedded into the right side of her body.  She suffers a fractured skull, broken bones, a hip abrasion, and possible (but unknown) internal injuries.  After she regains consciousness, she is unable to speak.  Despite her severe injuries, she is transported from Mount Prospect to Kenosha, and then on to Minneapolis.

    He leaned close. Her gaze followed him. He forced himself not to look at her shattered right side. She was his sweet, innocent wife on one side and a monster on the other. He took her hand again.

    Buck and Ken Ritz break her out of the fully staffed and stocked GC trauma center so that they can take care of her back home, nearly 400 miles away.  Oh, and I neglected to
    mention that she’s also two months pregnant.

    In Book 5, she has sufficiently recovered from the traumatic injuries so that she can take a trip to Israel.  (Yeah, right!) She has a difficult labor, with complications, but in the final chapter of the book, she gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy.

    In tears she suckled him and announced his name.

    Kenneth Bruce.*

    Even Hattie wept.

    The authors leave her alone until Book 11, where she is captured, drugged, and interrogated by the Keystone Cops GC. Finally she loses her head.

    Chloe singlehandedly creates a successful international co-op that supplies RTCs with food and supplies during the Great Tribulation.  In spite of her C.E.O. responsibilities, she still has time to be a loving wife and mother.  What does Jerry Jenkins have against her?  Why does he continue to punish the successful female characters?

    * Ken Ritz dies in the middle of Book #5.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    I still maintain that it’s possible to write a story with an observer-only character who has no immediate need (other than survival, of course). What makes it tough is that it only works in a very well-build world, one with lots of detail, colorful characters, and interesting vignettes for the observer to notice. The world of L.B. is stunningly dull. Part of the blame has to go to Jenkins and his lifeless writing, but I think most of it is on LaHaye and his insistence on making his religion/politics the heart of the book, leaving little room for real storytelling.

    The problem is that politicized fiction tends to sell well, regardless of its actual quality. No one buys these books because they’re good books.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    Well, if it were anyone else, I’d say that Jenkins really liked Chloe. A good writer always makes his favorite character suffer the most. But that’s clearly not true, since Chloe is only an interesting character by accident and Jenkins clearly views her as an extension of Buck, his self-insert.

    There’s the rub; He’s harming Chloe to make Buck suffer. Hell, look at those passages – the emphasis is on what Buck is going through, not Chloe.

  • Vermic

    Why in the world did Chloe not say where she was or how she was the first time she called Buck’s office?  Did she figure “I’m trapped in a Range Rover with no reading material, think I’ll pass the time by playing telephone tag”?

    Also, assuming Chloe wasn’t the only person in Chicago to crash her car, I wonder how many other people in need Buck passed during his journey through downtown, but neither he nor Jerry Jenkins could be bothered to acknowledge them.

  • Jessica_R

    No flash fiction today, the news from the Nutmeg State broke my heart. Those poor kids. 

  • GeniusLemur

    Do the bombs fall on San Francisco instantly? That’s an interesting trick to pull. In my mind’s approximation of Jerry Jenkins’, I’m seeing massive formations of B-17s with jet engines flying over San Francisco International. In one the bombadier peers through his bombsight,  his finger over the release button…
    “C’mon, Potentate, say ‘trigger!’”
    “C’mon, give the command!”
    “C’mon, tell me to drop the bombs, I’m tired of waiting!”
    “Dammit, Nick, this is the 43rd pass, I’ve had my eye glued to this sight for two solid hours, my finger’s too cramped to move, and I’m sick of staring at that damned control tower!

  • GeniusLemur

    That would be the War of the Worlds approach.

  • hidden_urchin

    Me too, Jessica_R. I’m thinking we’re long overdue for a discussion on the US gun culture. Of course, “now is not the time.” As far as I’m concerned, the time was years ago. When are we going to honor the victims of these shootings by saying that their deaths will be the beginning of the end? As it stands now, all we do is mutter some meaningless platitudes and then forget them. Their suffering is treated as just an unfortunate but unavoidable aspect of life in the US.

    I’m sad but I’m also angry. It’s time to end this.

  • dj_pomegranate

    “I’m trying to call her now, Verna. The line is busy.”…“Verna, please! I’m trying to reach Chloe!” …He knew it was barricaded from the north at the Michigan Avenue exit. … One bomb? Buck thought. Maybe it was merciful she was out for all the bombs that followed.

    Buck Williams: Professional Mansplainer who even fails at mansplaining.

  • VMink

    Yeah; my gaffe earlier this year was misplaced and foolish, I know this now.  This has to stop.  It is not an inevitable part of living in any civilized country.

  • Deborah Moore

    Aunursa, your encyclopedic knowlege of Left Behind is stunning.  Why do you inflict it on yourself?  Are you some sort of masochist?

  • Beleester

    You don’t even need that much detail. The SCP Foundation has a lot of short stories which feature a powerless narrator watching the monster of the week run amok over security cameras, clinically reporting the containment breaches and terminations, with only the occasional bit of analysis or personal comment.

    Those stories work because the observer is powerless. All they can do is sit and watch, getting just enough details to imagine what must be happening on the scene. I wonder if you could tell a story from Bruce’s Apocalypse-proof Bunker (TM), listening to it unfold over the radio.

  • aunursa

    Deborah, if I were truly a masochist, I would spend four years of my life scrutinizing all 472 pages of Left Behind, page by painful page.  Then I would spend another four years analyzing the sequel, Tribulation Force.  Then the Left Behind movies, etc.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I submit that one doesn’t even need an interesting or well-built world. Just well-built sentences!

    I think Gertrude Stein or James Joyce or Henry Miller or Raymond Carver could have written many, many stories and even novels about boring people in boring placings doing boring things for no particularly pressing reason and made them very interesting.

  • GeniusLemur

    Probably Chloe and/or Jenkins figured Buck was the only one who could help her, so giving information to anyone else is pointless. It’s probably why Chloe doesn’t seem to have tried to call emergency services.
    Even granting that, Chloe could give information that the receiver can pass on to Buck, but that mean we’d miss the gripping phone tag.

    Speaking of which, Buck is the only person who can help Chloe. So if he gets there and Chloe is badly hurt, maybe even close to death, what exactly is this lone man on foot with no medical training going to do?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    This basic outline works. Dozens of different short stories could be written based on this basic premise. It could be the basis for an action movie or for an art film. It could be the setting for an action-packed first-person-shooter video game (just add zombies) or for a Myst-like puzzle game (just add fragments of a cryptic diary).

    I am glad that I am not the only one who’s mind goes first to interactive design implications.  

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    “— or worse, the computer itself —”

  • http://twitter.com/mcclure111 mcc

    By the way, Ludum Dare 25 (a competition to make a crazy, duct-taped-together game from freely available tools in 48 hours) is starting in a few hours. One of frontrunners for the weekend’s theme is “End of the World”.

  • WalterC

    Enough with the hyperbole, you drama queen. No one would actually do anything like that — that would take over a decade to finish even if you finished a chapter a month!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Chloe singlehandedly creates a successful international co-op that supplies RTCs with food and supplies during the Great Tribulation.  In spite of her C.E.O. responsibilities, she still has time to be a loving wife and mother.  What does Jerry Jenkins have against her?  Why does he continue to punish the successful female characters?

    I have heard that one school of thought in dramatic writing is to make characters that you love, let them endear themselves to the reader, then bring hell down upon them as though the narrative itself hates them.  

    This can really produce some effective emotional torque with the readers, creating a story that resonates well.  However, in order to do it effectively the writer has to have enough self-discipline to objectify the characters they are most fond of, cold enough to inflict torture upon them, and sensitive enough to know just where to draw the line and give them a break.  

    The issue I take with L&J is that their preference for which characters they like and dislike is pretty transparent, and the torture they inflict as narrative creators is too predictably heaped on characters whom they hate.  It makes it really hard to care, and one of the reasons I think that we as readers (who do not already identify with L&J’s world view) tend to sympathize more with the characters who get the short end of the stick in these series than we do the ostensible “heroic” protagonists.  

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

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 250 pages

  • reynard61

    “I’m thinking we’re long overdue for a discussion on the US gun culture.”

    Good luck with that. Unfortunately, it ain’t gonna happen as long as the foremost bastion of that culture, the NRA, has the raw monetary power and political will to make Congress (and, let’s face it, the rest of us) it’s bitch. Until We (as in “We the People”) can figure out a way to make “NRA” mean “Not Relevant Anymore”, shit like this is going to be de rigueur for the foreseeable future. Sorry, but that’s just how it is for now.

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

    The NRA LOVES discussions about gun control. LOVES them. As long as nothing results, of course. They love them because they make it easy to scare people into thinking that THE GUBMINT IS GONNA TAKE AWAY YER GUNZ TOMORROW (no, wait, the day after (no, wait, they day after that)) SO GO BUY AS MANY AS YOU CAN

  • Will Hennessy

    So now the city I was born in, the city I call my home, the city my sports teams play in, is destroyed, and I’ll get to hear about it on the news from this far away. Or maybe on a cell phone, since nuclear bombs in this universe don’t emit electromagnetic pulses which MIGHT have some effect on anything electronic.

    Oh Ray. My hero.

    …ass.

  • hidden_urchin

    I think the only way We the People can make the NRA irrelevant is to start talking.  The conversation doesn’t have to start with the politicians.  All it has to do is end with them.

    As long as We believe that We can’t do anything, that is exactly how it will remain.  Changing the gun culture will ultimately take generations but it has to start somewhere.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     I was thinking more of silos, but does the book ever specify what type of attack?  Bombs or missiles? 

    But at the same time, there is an ellipsis after the “trigger” line, before Rayford hears the screams, so I assume some time passed.  Is this true? 

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    “Nothing heightens suspense like constant reminders from the author that he used to live in Chicago and knows his way around the city.”

    A better author can use this attention to geographic detail.  Jenkins is not a better author.  One I can name that does this trick well is Stephen King.  But King at least admits he freely makes up the geography of places, whereas Jenkins uses it hear to demonstrate exactly what Fred said he is demonstrating. 

     “This allows Jenkins to describe the same scene for us twice within the span of five pages. “Buck, the Range Rover seems to be stuck between a tree and a concrete abutment,” Chloe says on the phone here on page 97. “The Range Rover was lodged between the trunk and lower branches of a large tree and the concrete abutment,” we read later, when Buck arrives at the scene on page 102.”

    I’ve done this myself in my own writing, and it can be helpful to have options is where you place exposition, but the trick IS TO SELF-EDIT LATER, something Jenkins is incapable of doing. 

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

    “we’re being attacked from the air” implies WW2 style bombers. Which, again, is just another problem this series has, considering modern militaries have had the capability of long (read: outside of visual) range bombing for 50ish years now.

  • GeniusLemur

     Well, every time they’ve specified where exactly the explosions came from, it was aerial bombing.

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

    Having not planned what to say, Buck found himself majoring on the majors.

    Who the everloving blazes “plans what to say” when they’re frantically trying to get hold of their loved one(s)?

    Jenkins has such a tin ear for RTHs*.

    * Real True Human

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

    Dead arm after dead arm.  No watch.

    “People just don’t wear them as much anymore,” Jane said.

    Cameron took the cell phone from his pocket and said, “This is your fault,” before putting it back.

    Jane said, “The up side is that digital watches have gone out of style-”

    “I still think they’re a pretty neat idea.”

    “That’s an amazingly primitive trait.”

    “But mostly harmless.”

    “Indeed.  But my point is that if we do find a watch it’s likely to be analog.”

    “Hands frozen in place rather than blank screen.”

    “Exactly.”

    -

    They did eventually find a watch, and concluded that Chloe probably took the impassible road before it became impassible, and so worked to get to the other side of the impassible section.

    -

    Cameron’s cell phone rang.  It didn’t feel safe to use an arm to talk on it while the motorcycle was in motion.  He asked Jane to stop then answered the phone, “This better be important.”
    “It is.”

    “Verna?”

    “She’s alive, don’t know much beyond that.”

    “That’s… that’s…” the best thing he heard all day, so good he didn’t know how to wrap his mind around it, incredible, exactly what he wanted to hear, and so many other things.  He wasn’t able to say any of them.  Finally he did manage, “How do you know?”

    “We intercepted a message.  She tried to put in a call to the office, but cut the call when she didn’t recognize the voice.”

    “So the other side-”

    “They consider her a low value target, and they want her alive if they get her.  Don’t worry.”  After a pause Verna added, “The other side has no idea where she is, you do.  You’ll find her first.”

    “Ok.  Gotta go.”

    “Good luck.”

    Cameron turned off the phone and turned to Jane, “She’s alive.”

    “Anything beyond that?” Jane asked.

    “Not a jot.”

    “Then we better get going.”

    They got back on the bike and continued their search, now confident that one of their shouts of, “Chloe!” would get a response beyond their own echo.

    Rayford sat still, armed guards watching any move he might make.

    The plane shuddered as a shockwave passed.  That would be San Francisco.  A city he might have saved if he’d been willing to crash the plain while his wife was still on it, but he had been foolish enough to think he could save both.

    Now it was too late for him to do anything.

    He wondered how much blood was on his hands now.  Too much to ever wash off.  That was for sure.

  • Some guy who hates pants

    She reminds him of some female who didn’t always know her place?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    “we’re being attacked from the air” implies WW2 style bombers. Which, again, is just another problem this series has, considering modern militaries have had the capability of long (read: outside of visual) range bombing for 50ish years now.

    To be fair, there are circumstances that warrant air-to-ground ordinance being deployed from a flight platform approximately overhead of the target.  However, these circumstances are usually when the target is small, potentially mobile, and the operators need to visually confirm the target’s destruction.  

    In WWII this would have been done with dive-bombers.  Later it would have been done with strike aircraft.  These days we do it with drones.  

    However, these circumstances are not the ones that the books have.  They describe strategic bombing like it was World War II and we were trying leave opposition industrial centers in ruins via saturation.  We have not needed to do that in more than half a century.  Why would we?  The old indiscriminate techniques were what we used because we had nothing so precise as we do now; a tactic born of necessity and poor technology than any particular preference in how we wage war.  

  • Baby_Raptor

    I could see it if the person had the presence of mind to think “Hey, ‘X bad situation’ caused massive damage to where I’m at, I have no idea if the phones will work much longer, this may be the only call I get.” so they know they have to prioritize getting the info they need to carry out the rescue. 

    Left Behind isn’t written with that much forethought. 

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

    The thing that struck me when I read this passage that comes right after this, when Buck find Chloe, is that she does absolutely nothing to help herself, but Buck has to tell her step by step what to do.  It’s like she’s the avatar in a Zork text game.

    :Get out of car
    :cant’ get out of car, door is locked
    :unlock door.
    :door is now unlocked.
    :get out of car
    :can’t get out of car, foot is stuck
    :unstick foot.

  • Ken

    But that was all the way back on page 63, and Jenkins sapped all the
    urgency out of that set-up by giving us several more scenes in which
    Buck drives out to Loretta’s house, or calls his dad in Arizona, or does
    just about anything other than racing to the rescue.

    Reminds me of a review for one of Doris Wishman’s movies*, where the reviewer said that you never realize how many conventions there are in filmmaking – where the camera should be pointing, how the shot should be framed, when cuts should happen – until you saw a movie that completely ignored those rules.

    * I can’t remember the site; I think it was one of the B-Masters group.  Actually, it almost had to be, considering they were reviewing a Wishman movie.

  • Tybult

    And it makes it impossible for us to cheer them on, hoping that they succeed in getting what they want.

    That’s pretty charitable, seeing as how I’ve been hoping that they get nothing they want, from Page 1.

    We have a man wandering through the still-burning ruins of a former city, trying to find his wife.

    Well that’s true, except for the parts about how Chicago is on fire, and how Buck is trying to find his wife.
    (I read ahead, and he’s actually trying to find the stack of stupid boring bullshit she was riding along with. Buck sees himself as the inheritor of Bruce’s role as Guardian of the Stupid Boring Bullshit.)

    Buck was in reasonably good shape for a man in his early thirties

    Because Ellenjay seem to write the exact opposite of what they intend, I am now picturing Buck as having a double chin and a belly that’s restrained solely by his tucked-in shirt. He started panting three steps into the run.
    “Ooooh. Aaaah. I’m….oooooh. Aaaaah. In….. pretty….. hunhhhhh good hwaooooor……. shape,” he’s saying.
    Over the course of the next block, he manages to add, “as the bravest investigative journalist in the world should be.”

    He is of course wearing pants with a 32 waist, because only fat people wear larger.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    “Buck was in reasonably good shape for a man in his early thirties,”

    Considering that Buck is supposed to be a younger Marty Stu for one of the authors, (I forget which one) this really isn’t all that impressive.  If one doesn’t have some chronic condition or a drug problem; and takes care to specifically avoid the True American Path of living in the suburbs and never exercising (Only sketchy peasants walk anywhere) then you’ll naturally still be in near-peak shape in your early thirties.  Was this meant to be some bracing display of manliness? 

     “but now his joints ached and his lungs pleaded for air as he
    sprinted to Chicago Avenue and headed east toward the lake.”That’s right El Jay.  The lake is on the east side alright.  Good work.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLid6Rdrdv8

  • Zippy

    Enough with the hyperbole, you drama queen. No one would actually do anything like that — that would take over a decade to finish even if you finished a chapter a month!

    Even latereviews.blogspot.com quit after book 9. Actually a lot of people seemed to quit the series after Hattie died.

    Unless the world ends in 7 days, Fred should be at this until, what, the 2030s?

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Surely, parts of that narrative were quite clear about Bruce’s belief that Nicolae Carpathia was the Antichrist.

    Surely, by now this could not possibly be in doubt! What are there, about a billion Christians left after the Rapture? Christians who made the mistake of not taking the Bible- including Revelation- literally? But presumably they have read it, and given how eerily similar- no, identical- the events of that book are to the events transpiring all around them- well, it wouldn’t take Bruce’s analysis (which I assume is just “All work and no play makes Nicolae a dull Antichrist” over and over for thousands of pages) for at least some of these left behind Catholics and Episcopalians and Anglicans to figure this out. Or maybe a plain and simple reading of the Bible is not quite what L&J have lead me to believe?

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

    I really don’t get why L&J present this notion of keeping the info about Nicolae secret. If their characters were really the brave lone-voice Christians L&J want us to believe they are, wouldn’t they steal a photocopier and rush off leaflets and scatter them about?

    Or perhaps hack blogs?

    Or … (insert subversive act here)

    And yet they act like bumps on logs.

  • MaryKaye

    I have to say this, though, the bit about the traffic lights clicking futilely is one of the best single-line descriptions so far.  It’s unexpected and vivid.  It doesn’t make *sense*, because nothing in this section does, but for a story that lacked a quasi-atomic bomb blast it would be quite nice.

  • Todd Sweeney

    Wait…the concussions knocked out communications, THEN the bombs were going to take out the tower?

    What, do concussions outrun the explosions that cause them?  What do the authors think a bomb does, anyhow?  Makes flames?  Fragmentation?  It ain’t grenades, fellows.  The conussion IS the bomb.

    And radio waves couldn’t care less about some compression waves in air.  The only way you knock out communications with a tower is by, well, busting all teh radios.  WHICH ARE ON THE TOWER.

  • Ajarn_jeffrey

    I initially assumed the title referred to the National Rifle Association leading us into a future in which — as in the movie “Running Man” — society degenerates into a Hobbesian nightmare where survival depends on being able to blow away the heavily-armed predators who stalk us. Starting in kindergarten.

  • Turcano

    Why do I get the feeling that this woman’s work is going to end up in an episode of the Cinema Snob?

  • GeniusLemur

     I’d love to know how Buck is in reasonably good shape, given that the only exercise he ever gets is dialing a phone.

  • Carstonio

    Dumb question – wouldn’t the “still-burning ruins of a former city” be radioactive? Some eschatology devotees claim that Zechariah 14:12 is a prophecy of nuclear war.

  • http://www.facebook.com/barkerpm Peter Barker

    I know it’s been said many times before, but the Jenkins’ telephone obsession is really, really bizarre.  Still, good to know that all those cell towers are still standing in the wake of a nuclear attack.  Also good to know that the electromagnetic pulses, followed by the clouds of radiation aren’t interfering with the transmission of microwaves.

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

    Oh yeah, and get this.

    After the big-ass world earthquake?

    The first thing the GC does is go around putting up portable cell towers. L&J’s characters sneer at that as misplaced priorities.

    Never mind that Buck would be at loose ends without a phone to use.

  • Eamon Knight

    Of course the cell phone network is still running, with apparently fewer glitches and coverage problems than happens under normal circumstances. Despite all the buildings that had the cell towers on their rooftops now being rubble. And the support equipment in the basements. And the power is still on to the now non-existent cell towers and support equipment. Because the LB plot couldn’t possibly continue if the characters couldn’t make *phone calls*.

    (I’m in the wireless biz, so I might as well make this my personal gripe to focus on among the general awfulness).


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