NRA: We’re back in the car again

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 95-107

Buck Williams’ wife, Chloe, is trapped in the crumpled wreck of his Range Rover somewhere off the side of Lake Shore Drive. Buck is “walking quickly” to her side.

He’s already run more than a mile, and now:

There was no running left in him, despite his fear that she might be bleeding or in shock.

“I’m in the strangest place,” she said, and he sensed her fading.

She babbles on for a bit, “dreamily,” sounding “as if she were about to fall asleep.” She drifts in and out of consciousness and occasionally Buck hears “her groan painfully.” And he walks on. Briskly.

One odd thing about this whole Buck-searching-for-Chloe sequence is what does not happen in any of this. Buck doesn’t pray.

Chloe is in the car and Buck is in the tree … so where is the dinosaur?

The heroes of these books often make a show of pious prayer. Readers were even made to endure a multi-page silent prayer session in Bruce’s office in which their spiritual — and literal — groaning was at once, like a poorly written sex scene, overly explicit and helplessly vague. Buck and Rayford frequently pause to pray for guidance or divine protection or wisdom before meeting with their boss, the Antichrist, or before undertaking some more mundane task.

Yet here Buck hasn’t got a prayer.

That’s odd to me, since these are exactly the sorts of situations in which I’m most inclined to pray. I think that’s true for most people who believe in God even in the vaguest sense. Trekking on foot through a smoldering city, with scenes of devastation all around, many of us would reflexively be offering up some variation of the “God help those poor bastards” prayer. If I were desperate to find my injured wife and had no idea which direction to turn, I’m sure I’d be blurting out some form of your basic “A little help here!” prayer. And once I’d found out where she was and heard her weak, fading voice over the phone, my every sentence to her — “Hold on, I’m coming!” — would be accompanied by a pleading demand of a prayer making the same urgent request/command.

(In such dire situations, I confess, my prayers tend to sound a bit like those of Pedro Cerrano in Major League — “I’m pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You don’t help me now, I say ‘F–k you, Jobu.’ I do it myself …” — but these are still prayers. The book of Psalms, by the way, is filled with prayers very much like Cerrano’s.)

After that bit quoted above, with Buck having “no running left in him” even as “he sensed her fading,” I really expected the next lines to be Buck praying the beloved words of Isaiah 40:31 — “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” —  and then for him to feel suddenly energized, sprinting to Chloe’s side as though on eagle’s wings.

Such a direct, instantaneous answer to prayer might not seem realistic, but it would be more realistic than the idea that Buck Williams, a real, true evangelical Christian, would be in this situation without praying such a prayer.

So from page 96 through page 99 we get a phone conversation between Buck and a dazed, groggy Chloe in which she describes her predicament. And then on pages 102 and 103, Buck arrives and describes the same situation in much the same words.

Repetition, alas, does not provide clarity. Buck’s Adventure With the Range Rover and the Tree, which unfolds over the next several pages, depends on readers being able to picture this scene quite precisely, and Jerry Jenkins doesn’t give us much to go on.

We should give Jenkins points here for degree-of-difficulty. This sort of scene is not easy to pull off. It’s a kind of writing that almost requires one to story-board out the sequence as though you were preparing to film it. Unless the writer has a perfectly clear image of the scene in mind, there’s no way we readers will be able to get a clear picture of it in ours.

The Range Rover was lodged between the trunk and lower branches of a large tree and the concrete abutment. “Turn those lights off, hon!” Buck called out. “Let’s not draw attention to ourselves now.”

That bit about the lights and an upcoming little bit about Buck using a flashlight are the first indications we have that it’s nighttime. Maybe I missed some earlier clue, but it wasn’t until I got to the flashlight that I realized that Buck has been running/walking around in the dark this whole time.

Buck doesn’t want to draw the attention of rescue personnel for the same reason he was so evasive when speaking with them earlier. Readers are apparently supposed to understand what this reason might be, but I don’t. It seems to me that the attention of police, firefighters or EMTs is exactly what Chloe needs just now.

I suppose Buck’s reasoning is that all such emergency responders now work for the one-world government of the Global Community, and thus they are all in a sense in the employ of the Antichrist. But Buck is too. It also may be that he’s worried that while rescuing his ailing wife, those emergency personnel might stumble across the print-outs from Bruce’s hard drive in the back of the SUV. You know how it is after the nuclear destruction of a city — cops are on the prowl for reams of email print-outs that they can skim in search of potentially troubling theology. Rather than risk that, Buck decides it’s better to deny his wife professional medical assistance. Better safe than sorry.

The next paragraph gives us a slightly better picture of the scene, but only slightly:

The wheels of the vehicle pressed almost flat against the wall, and Buck was amazed that the tree could sustain the weight. Buck had to climb into the tree to look down through the driver’s-side window.

Here’s what I’ve got: The Range Rover is tilted onto its right side, with the passenger door facing the ground. The wheels of the SUV are touching a concrete wall of indeterminate height or purpose.

And there’s a tree. It’s large. Based on the apparent abundance of lower branches, I’m guessing it’s some kind of pine tree.

Is the passenger side of the SUV lying on the ground? Or is the vehicle suspended, somehow, in the branches of the tree? Maybe it’s tipped nearly onto its side, leaning partly against the “trunk and lower branches” of the tree? But no, the wheels are “almost flat against the wall,” and that would mean the side of the SUV is also almost flat against the ground, right? So in what way is the tree having to “sustain the weight”?

Chloe’s position is a bit clearer. She “seemed to be dangling from the seat belt” of the driver’s seat. The driver’s side window is facing up, but it’s closed. So we get half a page of Chloe painfully squirming to turn the ignition on so that she can open the window. (Those of us driving no-option, no-extras models with dependable manual windows are excused for feeling a little smug here.)

“Can you unlatch your seat belt without hurting yourself?”

“I’ll try, Buck, but I hurt all over. I’m not sure what’s broken and what isn’t.”

“Try to brace yourself somehow and get loose of that thing. Then you can stand on the passenger’s-side window and lower this one.”

Our image of the SUV comes a bit more into focus — flat on the ground on its right side. And I guess the roof of the car is pressed up against the tree somehow.

Chloe can’t get out of the seatbelt, but she does manage to get her window open.

Buck reached down with both hands to try to support her. “I was so worried about you,” he said.

“I was worried about me too,” Chloe said. “I think I took all the damage to my left side. I think my ankle’s broken, my wrist is sprained, and I feel pain in my left knee and shoulder.”

… “You’re not bleeding anywhere?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I hope you’re not bleeding internally.”

“Buck, I’m sure I’d be long gone by now if I were bleeding internally.”

“So you’re basically all right if I can get you out of there.”

Yeah, she’s fine.

This next bit I can actually picture, except for how the tree fits in:

Buck lay across the side of the nearly upended Range Rover and reached way down in to put one forearm under Chloe’s right arm and grab her waistband at the back with the other. He lifted as she pushed the seat belt button. She was petite, but with no foundation or way to brace himself it was all Buck could do to keep from dropping her. She moved her feet out from under the dashboard and stood gingerly. Her feet were on the passenger’s-side door, and her head now was near the steering wheel.

Apart from wondering how Buck grabs something with his forearm, I followed most of that. The SUV is lying on its right side. Buck is lying atop its left side. Still not sure about the tree, or how “nearly upended” is meant to describe “flat on its side,” but I think I know where Buck and Chloe are at this point.

Chloe begs for help getting out of the SUV she’s been trapped in for the last several hours:

“I really want out of here in a bad way, Buck. Can we get that door open, and can you help me climb?”

Buck responds to this direct request with some ill-advised banter:

“I just have one question for you first. Is this how our married life is going to be? I’m going to buy you expensive cars, and you’re going to ruin them the first day?”

“Normally that would be funny –”

“Sorry.”

And then Buck shows he wasn’t entirely kidding, because instead of opening the door and helping her climb out, he asks Chloe to give him the flashlight from the glove compartment so he can inspect the damage to his precious.

He looked all around the vehicle. The tires were still good. There was some damage to the front grille, but nothing substantial. He turned off the flashlight and slid it into his pocket. With much groaning and whimpering, Chloe came climbing out of the car, with Buck’s help.

As they both sat on the upturned driver’s side, Buck felt the heavy machine moving in its precarious position.

For just a second there I was sure I had a clear picture of the scene. The car is lying flat on its right side, Buck and Chloe are sitting on top of it. But no, that can’t be right, because it’s position must be “precarious,” and a boxy Range Rover lying on its side isn’t going to be “moving in its precarious position.”

Chloe decides its easier to “go two feet up to the top of the abutment” than to climb down from the top/side of the car, so I mentally readjust the height of said abutment, still wondering what it is that it’s abutting, while Buck gives Chloe a boost up onto the top of the wall — wherever that may be and whatever might be up there.

And here I completely lose track of Jenkins’ storyboard:

When she made the last thrust with her good leg, the Range Rover shifted just enough to loosen itself from the wickedly bent tree branches. The tree and the Range Rover shuddered and began to move. “Buck! Get out of there! You’re going to be crushed!”

Buck was spread-eagled on the side of the Range Rover that had been facing up. Now it was shifting toward the abutment, the tires scraping and leaving huge marks on the concrete. The more Buck tried to move, the faster the vehicle shifted, and he realized he had to stay clear of that wall to survive. He grabbed the luggage rack as it moved toward him and pulled himself to the actual top of the Range Rover. Branches snapped free from under the vehicle and smacked him in the head, scraping across the car. The more the car moved, the more it seemed to want to move, and to Buck that was good news — provided he could keep from falling. First the car moved, then the tree moved, then both seemed to readjust themselves at once. …

And, like Buck, I’m struggling to readjust as well to my ever-shifting attempt to picture what’s going on here.

… Buck guessed that the Range Rover, once free of the pressure from the branches, had about three feet to drop to the ground. He only hoped it would land flat. It didn’t.

The car was suspended off the ground? That’s something Jenkins might have mentioned earlier.

The heavy vehicle, left tires pressed against the concrete and several deeply bowed branches pushing it from the right side, began slipping to the right. Buck buried his head in his hands to avoid the springing out of those branches as the Range Rover fell clear of them. They nearly knocked him into the wall again. Once the Range Rover was free of the pressure of the branches, it lurched down onto its right side tires and nearly toppled. Had it rolled that way, it would have crushed him into the tree. But as soon as those tires hit the ground, the whole thing bounced and lurched, and the left tires landed just free of the concrete. The momentum made the left side of the vehicle smash into the concrete, and finally it came to rest. Less than an inch separated the vehicle from the wall now, but there the thing sat on uneven ground.

I’m willing to give Jenkins the benefit of the doubt here and guess that repeated close and slow readings of this scene might yield some coherent sequence of physical events. I’d bet that if we gave him a half hour, some graph paper, a white board and some miniature models, he could walk us through all of that and show us what he was imagining in a way that made sense.

Or maybe not. But even if I don’t understand how we wound up here, I think I understand this part:

Except for the damage to the front grille and the scrapes on both sides, one from concrete and one from tree branches, the car looked little the worse for wear.

And it still runs. Buck climbs in and slides behind the wheel … but, oh no! — now the SUV is trapped in a rut. The adventure continues:

The Rover was in automatic and four-wheel drive. When he tried to go forward it seemed he was in a rut. He quickly switched to stick shift and all-wheel drive, gunned the engine, and popped the clutch. Within seconds he was free of the tree and out onto the sand.

And readers, too, are back on familiar ground as Jenkins settles back into the Cliff-Claven-esque narration we’ve come to expect. (“Ya see, dere, Sammy. When you get stuck like that, whatcha need ta do is switch to stick-shift and all-wheel drive, then pop the clutch. Works like a chahm …”)

The top of the abutment turns out to be an overpass. Like the Range Rover, Lake Shore Drive, the (pine?) tree, and the rest of Chicago, the overpass is “little the worse for wear” after the nuclear bombs, so Buck drives up onto it and helps get Chloe back in  the car.

He fastened her seat belt and was on the phone before he got back into the car.

Of course he was, but here he has a good reason — calling Loretta to “call around and find any doctor in the church” to tend to Chloe once they arrive.

Buck tried to drive carefully so as not to exacerbate Chloe’s pain. However, he knew the shortest way home. When he got to the huge barrier at Michigan Avenue on the LSD, he swung left and …

Yeah, ya see dere, Norm, the most direct route isn’t always the shortest. Now to someone who doesn’t know the area as well as I do, it might seem like you’d want to swing right there, but …

And on like that, for half a page more. It’s almost, but not quite, as thrilling as reading directions from Google Maps.

 

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  • Tricksterson

    First?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Readers were even made to endure a multi-page silent prayer session in Bruce’s office in which their spiritual — and literal — groaning was at once, like a poorly written sex scene, overly explicit and helplessly vague.

    IKEA Prayer?

  • Tricksterson

    Is it me or does most of Chloe’s dialogue read like it should end in “you idiot”?

  • reynard61

    “Is it me or does most of Chloe’s dialogue read like it should end in ‘you idiot’?”

    No, it’s not just you. In fact, this whole series would probably have been markedly improved if, whenever a secondary character (or “NPC”, if you will) had spoken to Ray-Ray or Cam-Cam (or Bruce-Bruce, or even Nick-Nick), they had ended their dialogue with those two words. It might have made things a helluva lot more interesting and entertaining.

  • hidden_urchin

    Yup. Jenkins totally wrote this scene after watching Jurassic Park.

    He should have included the Velociraptors.  This story would be greatly improved by the addition of Velociraptors.  And a T-rex.  Jesus should come back riding a frickin’ T-rex.  What good is being an omnipotent deity if you can’t ride a dinosaur while you destroy the world?

  • Tofu_Killer

    Actually…

  • Tybult

     He should have included the Velociraptors.  This story would be greatly improved by the addition of Velociraptors.

    “Tell me, Mr. Steele,” Nicolae said, “do members of your particular sect believe in the dinosaurs?”
    “I’m sorry?” Rayford choked out.
    “It’s a minor matter, really, a point of contention among my PsyOp experts. In any case, allow me to introduce my Heavy Utahraptor Cavalry.”
    He gestured towards the hangar doors that were even now opening.
    “They should be most effective against Jesus’ First Triceratops Battalion,” Carpathia said.

    (You’re right, that makes a much more interesting story.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    I want to see more this.

  • Tricksterson

    And make the dinosaurs cyborgs.

  • http://feygelegoy.myopenid.com/ Feygele Goy

    I still can’t get over how much these books drive home the same point to prospective authors: read what you wrote when you “complete” each draft, not to bask in its awesomeness but to imagine if their work will meet the readers’ expectations.

    However, I’m sure Jenkins would tell you to do so is unnecessary – if you pay him for his advice.

  • GeniusLemur

    I don’t see what the you’re griping about here. Buck’s been reciting prayers constantly since he heard Chloe’s crash. Oh wait, that was making phone calls. With Jenkins’ writing, it’s easy to get them confused.

  • Lunch Meat

    “There was no running left in him, despite his fear that she might be bleeding or in shock. “I’m in the strangest place,” she said, and he sensed her fading.”

    What.

    Look, no matter how bad my legs hurt and how much I feel I can’t run anymore, I keep on pushing myself to run over such little things as trying to catch a train. If your wife is in danger, you’d better be either running or collapsed from exhaustion. None of this, “oh, running is too hard, I’ll just walk briskly for a while.”

  • fraser

     And you definitely don’t get distracted from helping your wife in order to inspect the car. I can just imagine my wife if I decided to leave her in the car while checking the tires (let alone when it’s suspended in a tree).

  • http://feygelegoy.myopenid.com/ Feygele Goy

    Isaiah 40:31 — “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint”

    And reading that, I want to cry, because – SPOILER ALERT! – according to (I believe) Kingdom Come, this verse is a literal prophecy of how after the Tribulation, believers will be able to run faster than fully loaded SUVs without feeling any sense of physical fatigue.

  • aunursa

    this verse is a literal prophecy of how after the Tribulation, believers will be able to run faster than fully loaded SUVs without feeling any sense of physical fatigue.

    To her amazement, she was not out of breath. Her strength and endurance remained, and so, apparently, did that of the old and the young alike…

    When the group caught and passed a speeding Hummer, Hannah knew they were running at miraculous, supernatural, superhuman speeds. And of all things, the kids wanted to be let down so they could run. She passed the Sebastians as they slowed to lower the children, but within minutes they had passed her again, their kids running as fast as the adults.

    Half an hour later the entire mass of a million was past the Hummer and nearing Bozrah.

    from Book #12: Glorious Appearing

  • fraser

     They’re the Tribulation X-Force.

  • Anton_Mates

    When the group caught and passed a speeding Hummer, Hannah knew they were running at miraculous, supernatural, superhuman speeds.

    My word.  Someone read The Last Battle and said “hmm, we need something like this!  Duller and uglier, though.  And with more fossil fuels.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Do they literally sprout wings?

  • J_Enigma32

    “Kingdom Come, this verse is a literal prophecy of how after the
    Tribulation, believers will be able to run faster than fully loaded SUVs
    without feeling any sense of physical fatigue.”

    It’s cute that they need a Rapture to accomplish that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respirocyte

    Granted, you won’t be running *faster* than an SUV, but you’ll be able to sprint for fifteen minutes straight before you need to breathe once, and you won’t feel tired at all.

    And if you define “run”, I *can* have you running almost as fast. Renee in the Blue Pimpernel has material on the bottom of her shoes (it’s a type of stealth rubber) that allows her preform a “bounding sprint,” sort of like what a gazelle does, that lets her keep up with vehicles that are moving at side-street speeds. And she can stick to any surface regardless what it is (perfectly polished glass or brick and mortar).

    I find it depressing that they need fantasy to accomplish this stuff that’s obviously possible using real world science.

  • GeniusLemur

     Fred’s right. This kind of scene is extremely difficult to pull off. You do need to use models, or storyboards, or something like that to give yourself a clear idea and successfully convey it to the reader. Of course, there was never a snowball’s chance in hell that Jenkins would bother with something like that, and he was never going to successfully describe it with his level of writing skill anyway. But then, Jenkins can’t successfully describe pushing a button with his level of writing skill.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    This is why I’m willing to cut Jenkins a little slack, just this once. Sequences involving complex physical actions and multiple characters are easily among the hardest to write. Even in the hands of a novelist who knows how to write action, this would be a mess – there’s just too much to track.

    But that’s where my good will ends. This isn’t an adventure novel where this kind of thing is a part of the genre. If Jenkins wasn’t willing to put in the effort – if he wasn’t prepared to take down multiple versions of this scene and analyze them to come up with the best one – he shouldn’t have bothered. It’s not like this is an especially dramatic scene anyway – the car is lying on it’s side on a highway, not perched on the edge of a cliff. Just have Buck pull out Chloe and get on with the story.

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

    … in the hands of a better author. As usual.

    I mean, srsly, Buck could be frantically dashing hither and yon, finally running out of steam, and then like magic, that line from Isaiah pops into his head and he feels refreshed and renewed (God’s hand at work, right?) and he sprints to find Chloe in the one truck on the side of the road that has its parking lights on, likely having sideswiped a concrete wall or something that would have hurt Chloe enough to be unable to operate the truck, though it could be driven.

    He then either gently extracts her from it and tries to find a doctor or he manages to drive it (since he has no broken bones) safely to a hospital.

  • http://twitter.com/Narrator1 Narrator 1

    Jenkins can’t successfully describe pushing a button with his level of writing skill.

    Maybe not, but he can sure describe using the telephone.  He has no problem with describing that over and over again.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Such a direct, instantaneous answer to prayer might not seem realistic, but it would be more realistic than the idea that Buck Williams, a real, true evangelical Christian, would be in this situation without praying such a prayer.

    You know, in Lovecraftian style cosmic horror fiction, I find that the horror is most effective when the supernatural elements of it are kept just beyond the range of perception.  The characters might see something that they can dismiss as an illusion of their fevered mind, or things happen which could have rationally explainable causes, except for these few minor details which just cannot seem to reconcile, etc.  The idea that the supernatural horror is out there, but we just cannot survive knowing that for certain, tends to enhance the psychological effectiveness of the horror in question.  

    Flip that around, and I think that applies to “good” kinds of supernatural activity too.  A miracle is filled with so much more wonder when it is implicit rather than explicit.  Buck might not be filled with renewed energy after reciting the prayer, but he might find himself speeding up and continuing on in spite of the pain in his legs.  If a miracle comes down to “Say the right words with the right emotions and get the right effect,” it gets reduced to something much more comprehensibly mundane, and thus becomes less of a miracle.  It helps with willing suspension of disbelief too.  When other people can see the miracle that could be explained away by reason (again with some irreconcilable details that leave the reader feeling unsatisfied with that explanation) then we can more easily accept that such other observers still do not believe in miracles.  

    Unfortunately, this series went the other direction with that, having explicit miracles and having the other observers still not believe, which undermines that willing suspension of disbelief.  Their rational explanation was so paper thin that the most rational among them should be poking holes in it, and yet…

  • http://www.metagalacticllamas.com/ Triplanetary

    That’s roughly what I was about to say. I’m an atheist, but if a theist chooses to interpret a rush of adrenaline that allowed them to save their loved one as a gift from God, I can sure as hell respect that.

    Atheist bloggers spend a lot of time wondering why religious folk sometimes refer to an occurrence that’s clearly within the realm of mundane possibility as a “miracle.” I don’t so much worry about that; the lens through which someone chooses to view their own life is their business. We all have our lenses, whether we’re religious or not. The only time it bothers me is when they demand that *I* also interpret the event as proof that their God exists.

    (Near-death experiences are a common one. “Explain THAT!” a Christian might demand in reference to NDEs. I’m like, “Uh… oxygen deprivation to the brain?”)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That’s roughly what I was about to say. I’m an atheist, but if a theist chooses to interpret a rush of adrenaline that allowed them to save their loved one as a gift from God, I can sure as hell respect that.

    I may not share a faith with any particular sect, but I can still understand and accept that prayer can have power.  I will argue over the focus of that power though.  I think that prayer is something one does to bolster oneself (or group prayer bolsters the assembled group.)  In cases like this, the surge of adrenaline is the mundane explanation for the second wind a desperate person might feel, but I think it is ignorant to assume that the person’s state of mind has no effect on this.  Context is important to the body, and a person’s perception will affect how their body reacts.  Someone running on their own might tire out, the same person discovering that they are being chased by velociraptors is probably going to tire out later due to the desperation of the situation.  

    Likewise, someone who believes that they are all alone and no one else is there to help them is more likely to give up in despair.  However, someone who thinks that they have God at their backs, observing, judging, and reassuring them, is more likely to press on when things seem darkest.  

    What really irks me about a lot of arguments about faith (whether from over-pious theists or militant atheists) is that there is an assumption that the same kind of psychological and emotional structures which support them and help prop them up must necessarily work for everyone and anyone who disagrees is delusional.  I want others to embrace what works for them, what gives them comfort and strength, and I expect them to extend me the same courtesy.  If they want to teach me what they believe because I might find such knowledge useful for informing my own coping mechanisms, that is wonderful, but I hope they are not offended if I do not incorporate every idea that they offer.  Some work better for me than others.  

  • TheDarkArtist

    Jenkins seems to be employing some strange, postmodern version of in medias res, where the scene gradually becomes clearer, like the opening of Infinite Jest, but, since he’s a terrible writer, it just comes off as being weird.

    But, I’ve honestly never read these books without being under the influence of narcotics, so I had kind of an easier time just sitting back and going with it than I would if I had attempted the feat sober.

  • aunursa

    One odd thing about this whole Buck-searching-for-Chloe sequence is what does not happen in any of this. Buck doesn’t pray.

    I presume that the reason that Jerry Jenkins didn’t have Buck pray for Chloe was that Jerry knew that Chloe was going to be okay.  Since she was going to be all right with or without prayers, it  simply didn’t occur to him that Buck might pray for her.

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

     

    the reason that Jerry Jenkins didn’t have Buck pray for Chloe was that Jerry knew that Chloe was going to be okay.

    I think you’ve got it. I’ve written quite a bit about this in the case of Twilight. The author surrogate doesn’t act the way a normal person would act in her situation because the author doesn’t separate her own knowledge from the character’s knowledge. Instead of putting herself in her character’s shoes, she puts her character in her own shoes, and we get scenes like this one right here.

    The term “Mary Sue” gets thrown around too much, and some critics have said it’s harming young writers by making them deathly afraid of having their work slapped with the dreaded label. But when your character is not only an idealized version of yourself but an actual stand in for you, right down to knowing everything you know and acting in accordance with that knowledge, you’ve got yourself a Mary Sue.

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

    I remember reading this way back when I tried reading the whole series through, and as I recall I could never quite figure out how the damn SUV got upended and then suspended in a tree like that.

    By rights the damn thing should be too banged up to drive safely, yet Buck hops in and drives off like it was butter.

    Clumsy product placement, Jenkins. I don’t think real life Range Rovers can do half that shit.

  • aunursa

    I remember reading this way back when I tried reading the whole series through, and as I recall I could never quite figure out how the damn SUV got upended and then suspended in a tree like that.

    Me too.  I’ve read this passage several times, and I still can’t get a picture in my head.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     I don’t think real life Range Rovers can do half that shit.

    That’s because most Range Rovers don’t have Magical Jesus Protection or Awesome Owner Mojo going for them.  Clearly (because Jenkins says so), this one has both.

  • Tricksterson

    Maybe the Range Rover is magic.  It’s the SUV equivalent of a D&D Palidin’s steed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Prost/100002434484052 Tony Prost

     It’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!!!

  • GeniusLemur

    No, it’s not believeable. But which is worse: having the rover miraculously unharmed, or having that whole damn scene at the car dealership, then wrecking the rover a chapter or so later?

  • GeniusLemur

    (Sorry, wasn’t clear) So all that stage business at the car dealership was for nothing, and now we have to sit through Buck car shopping AGAIN

  • Turcano

    You have clearly never seen The Gods Must Be Crazy.

  • http://inquisitiveravn.livejournal.com/ Inquisitive Raven

    Please note that the Land Rover in The Gods Must Be Crazy was nicknamed the “Antichrist.”  Obviously, it was no ordinary vehicle.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    …she made the last thrust with her good leg…
    …shuddered and began to move…
    …Buck was spread-eagled…
    … The more the [car] moved, the more it seemed to want to move…
    …both seemed to readjust themselves at once…
    …the whole thing bounced and lurched…

    Is there a subtext here, or is it just my imagination?

  • Will Hennessy

     Yes. It is also important to note that Chloe is the one doing the thrusting and that Buck is the one who is spread-eagled. Your assignment is a three-page paper on how this reflects on the Ernestian (as in The Importance of Being) nature of Buck relationship with Rayford.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    HOOOOOOOOOly MACKerel, ANdy! as my father would say.

  • aunursa

    Rather than risk that, Buck decides it’s better to deny his wife professional medical assistance. Better safe than sorry.

    In Book #4 Chloe suffers a fractured skull, broken bones, a hip abrasion, and possible internal injuries. After she regains consciousness, she is unable to speak.  And she’s pregnant.  Despite her severe injuries, Buck breaks her out of a fully staffed and stocked GC trauma center so that he can personally take care of her back home, nearly 400 miles away.

  • GeniusLemur

     Hey, anything to keep her away from the dirty SOB’s not of the RTC tribe.

  • aunursa

    Well, to be fair, the Tribulation Force do occasionally work with undecided people who are not (yet) RTCs.  It would be more accurate to say: “Anything to keep her away from the dirty Global Community forces.”

  • fraser

     I do wonder, like Fred, why Buck is so scared. As a highly ranked member of Nicolai’s inner circle, he should be commanding obedience and pulling strings, not skulking like a wounded gang member in a crime thriller.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.com/ D Johnston

    Clearly, she has Main Character Immunity. She’s impervious to everything but the plot; only the writer can kill her.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    ˙uʍop əpısdn ʇuəɯɯoɔ oʇ ɥɔıɥʍ uo ʇsod ʇɔəɟɹəd əɥʇ sı sıɥʇ

  • Vermic

    For all its flaws, this is the closest we’ve gotten to an action scene in three books.  So I’m thankful for it, like a starving man who’s been given a cold McNugget.

  • Lunch Meat

    For all its flaws, this is the closest we’ve gotten to an action scene
    in three books.  So I’m thankful for it, like a starving man who’s been
    given a cold McNugget.

    Of course, Jenkins doesn’t seem to realize that the reason this scene was tense and suspenseful in Jurassic Park was because the car had been pushed over the abutment by an actual Tyrannasaurus Rex who had eaten a person and might come back at any moment. Without that element, all this running to get out from under a car is just slapstick.

  • Vermic

    Of course, Jenkins doesn’t seem to realize that the reason this scene was tense and suspenseful in Jurassic Park was because the car had been pushed over the abutment by an actual Tyrannasaurus Rex who had eaten a person and might come back at any moment. Without that element, all this running to get out from under a car is just slapstick.

    Yeah, once it’s established that Chloe isn’t seriously injured, without any sort of external pressure — be it a burning fuel tank, an impending second bombing, or a T-Rex — there’s just not much tension in the scene, certainly not enough to justify 12 pages (!) worth of text.  Plotwise, in a strictly mechanical moving-the-characters-around sense, it’s important that Buck reunite with Chloe and she gets out of the car.  But the scene could be pulling double duty —  it could be helping to establish character, or introducing some new plot element, while performing its basic job of moving characters — and it isn’t doing that.

    An actual author would have given this scene a point.  It wouldn’t have just been about Chloe exiting the Range Rover and the physical actions required to accomplish that.  There would have been other stuff happening.  Buck discovering strength through prayer would have been a perfect way to go, one which also ties into the purported theme and purpose of the series.   There are many other ways to instill these scene with significance, but the prayer angle fits so well that I can’t think of anything that’d work better.

    The only way a reader could feel tension in these pages is if they assume extra details that aren’t actually part of the scene.  Which is actually pretty easy to do.  For instance, what if Chloe were slowly bleeding to death?  What if the Range Rover were about to plunge off a cliff or something?  What if a gang of looters were approaching?  The mind wants to be told a good story, so it’s easy for us to imagine these extra complications because our sense of drama tells us they should be happening, even though the text says they’re not.

    Well, it’s still better than a 12-page phone conversation.  Even cheap thrills are better than no thrills, as I said before.  But this is pretty darn cheap.

  • hidden_urchin

    Yeah, but a burning gas tank would definitely bring an end to the Range Rover and Jenkins can’t have that.  You see it a lot with novice writers.  They just can’t bring themselves to kill a beloved character even if the story demands it.  Thus, tension suffers. 

  • P J Evans

    The only way a reader could feel tension in these pages is if they assume extra details that aren’t actually part of the scene.

    What if the blast had set the top of the tree on fire, and it’s burning down toward the car, getting close enough to feel just as Buck gets Chloe out?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    And also, Carpathia opens a portal in space and summons forth a horde of demon locusts that are bearing down on Buck and Chloe as he’s struggling to free her…

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

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 241 pages

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

    Jenkins keeps calling Chloe “petite.”  That word does not mean what he thinks it means.

    He has established that she is 5’7″, 125 pounds.  Now, that’s underweight for that height, but Chloe is still tall.  No matter how skinny she gets, she will never be petite.  Petite means smal and short; in fashion, for example, petite generally means 5’3″ and under.

  • depizan

    How wide are Land Rovers?  Are they _really_ more than 5’7″ wide?  Because if they’re not then even the parts of this scene that made sense don’t make sense.

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

    Dimensions of Land Rover (a 2012, but still):

    http://www.landrover.com/us/en/lr/lr4/explore/lr4/

  • depizan

    Sadly, I can’t determine from that what the interior dimensions are, which is really what matters. It -may- be wide enough that a 5’7 person would need that much help getting out, but, frankly, I can’t even figure out why she couldn’t get out of her seatbelt, so who the hell knows.

    The exterior width is 79.6 inches (6’7.5), which wouldn’t trap an uninjured person, but Chloe is supposed to be injured…sorta…maybe…

    If the writing weren’t so vague, this would be much easier to sort out.

  • DorothyD

    Beats me why she couldn’t just step on the console, or whatever you call that thing with the gear shift,* which would have put her half-way out the window in which case she could have done without Buck’s help. 
    *This thing.

  • depizan

    Yeah, it’s like Ellenjay forgot that cars aren’t just blank flat walled boxes inside. Which is a damn weird thing to forget, since both of them presumably drive.

  • P J Evans

     Probably about 5 feet,or a little less, at the side windows. The widest part of the car exterior seems to be at head-and-taillight level, and it’s about a foot narrower at the roofline. Figure another foot for wall thickness.

  • Anton_Mates

    He has established that she is 5’7″, 125 pounds.  Now, that’s underweight for that height, but Chloe is still tall. 

    Ah, but Buck is a big tall manly man who must push the driver’s seat all the way back.  I’m pretty sure that, for him “petite” just means that a) she’s not fat and b) she can stand on tiptoes and still look up at him adoringly as he cradles her chin ‘twixt finger and thumb.

    Short is for foreigners, like Chaim the endearing little bill-dodging Jew, Albie the Arab whose real name is too weird for white people to bother trying to pronounce, Viv Ivins (real name Viviana Ivinsova) and Ming Toy.  Amanda White is “tall and handsome.”  Hattie is Sexy feet and Hot inches, and I’m not sure Rayford remembers Irene well enough for her to have a height.

    If Global Community Health Care director Consuela Conchita (yes, that is her full name) had a height it would probably be short, but I’m sure you couldn’t tell under her enormous antibacterial medical sombrero anyway.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Now, when I was reading this I thought the failure to pray was a result of Buck’s relative newness to faith.
    I was younger then.

    Actually this scene marks the point where I really began to understand the unmitigated awfulness of Jenkins.
    See, at the time that I was reading this the first time I was distracted with trying to figure out where Chloe was and just the whole logistical setup of this scene.
    Unlike Fred, I immediately got that she was hung up in a tree, with the car, but that was just luck on my part because I went in clear-eyed and assuming Jenkins was gonna deliver suspense (see what I did there? no? nevermind…).

    Then I started to hit the local knowledge problems.

    Chloe can’t be just off Lake Shore Drive (or LSD as we locals never called it) because the entire length of the Drive is built on infill of the lake front, and is at most ten feet higher than Lake Michigan.

    And LSD ends at Hollywood, which is ~8 miles from the Loop, so a nuke nails the city killing everyone…except Chloe who drives into a pit dug below lake level, a pit that has a conveniently located, mature tree in a place where most of the trees are small and ornamental. 
    Allright, why isn’t the tree damaged in the blast? Seems to me a big enough blast to blow a Land Rover off the highway and over a retaining wall would certainly knock down a mature tree.

    You know where this would work, just maybe? If Jenkins had just moved the location another ten miles north, up Sheridan Ave and into Winnetka. They have real bluffs there, and trees! And then you might convincingly claim Chloe survived the blast in one piece.

    And you know, I could forgive this, but Jenkins prides himself on being a local guy who knows all the roads and landmarks.

    Anyway, THIS is where I lost my ability to suspend disbelief, and I simply lost my enthusiasm for the rest of the series.

  • ReverendRef

     You know where this would work, just maybe? If Jenkins had just moved
    the location another ten miles north, up Sheridan Ave and into Winnetka.
    They have real bluffs there, and trees!

    If I recall from my days in Evanston, they also have a plethora of Range Rovers in driveways where the closest they will come to being “off-road” is if their owner moves them onto the lawn for the weekly wash.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    a pit that has a conveniently located, mature, tree in a place where most of the trees are small and ornamental.

    I would think that maybe Jenkins was doing some extrapolation, this being supposed to be “in the future” such small trees (recently planted in contemporary times) might have grown substantially in between the present day and the nebulous period these books take place in.  

    But once again, I am probably giving this a lot more thought than I am willing to credit to Jenkins, judging by all the rest of the continuity and speculative fail he has shown.

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

    Well, to be fair, the Tribulation Force do occasionally work with undecided people who are not (yet) RTCs.

    More like mentally dump crap all over as The Tribbles marinate in their own sense of self-superiority.

  • aunursa

    See, for example:

    Albie: What can I do for you?
    Rayford: I need a weapon, concealable put powerful.
    Albie: In other words you want it to do what it is intended to do.
    Rayford: You’re reading loud and clear, Albie.
    Albie: Very difficult. The potentate being a pacifist.
    Rayford: Means you’re the only reliable source.
    Albie: Very difficult.
    Rayford: But not impossible for you, right?
    Albie: Very difficult.
    Rayford: Expensive, in other words?
    Albie: Now you’re reading me loud and clear.
    Rayford If money were not an issue, does something come to mind?

    Albie: Mr. Steele, I have access to just the weapon. It is roughly the size of your hand. Heavy, thus accurate. Weight is due to firing mechanism, which is normally used in oversized rifles…
    from Book #6, Assassins

  • rizzo

    Not that this is well written or anything, but I’m really not having much trouble picturing the action in my head.  From his initial description you can tell that the car is suspended off the ground, then he describes where the wheels are and I have no problem picturing the position the car is in and how it moves as it slides down.  Yes, he certainly could have written it better, but as an example of bad writing in LB books, it’s nowhere near as strong as most. 

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

    The prayer you quote reminds me of this bit from Conan the Barbarian: “Crom! I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom, so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!”

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

    That made me think of Conan and Crom as well – specifically a bit that I just encountered recently in a reprint of an old issue of Savage Sword of Conan.  It’s not a prayer, but I thought it was a good line (and a good summation of Cimmerian theology):

    Even Crom gives me nothing, and I ask for no more.

  • Tricksterson

    Hmmm, just ocurred to me, Crom is pretty much a libertarian deity isn’t he?  He gives you life and what you need to get started and you’re on your own from there.

  • flat

    I couldn’t suspend my disbelieve the first time I read the back of those books.

  • flat

    facepalm

  • aunursa

    ps This was meant for aunursa

    For which comment?

  • flat

    disqus sucks

    The comment was meant for the whole running faster than SUV’s bit

  • flat

    Well I am gonna act like a sexist prick to defend Jenkins here.

    But it was a woman who drove a land rover who managed to crash a car in such a physically impossible way that it got smashed between a tree and a wall.
    and afterwards it still functioned.

    But that was thanks to Buck and his natural gift with cars.

  • flat

    And now I have to remind myself of the day of the jackal.
    About the scene where the jackal is meeting a gunsmith and gives instructions about what kind of weapon he needs.

    And the mutual respect and understanding between those two profesionals (although the jackal is better at being a profesional than the gunsmith)
    They still know that both have made emergency plans in case one tries to screw each other over.
    The gunsmith was smart enough not to mess with the jackall and survived, the forger who did try to blackmail him didn’t.
    None of these guys would have done bussines with rayford to begin with.
    Perhaps maybe the forger. (but he is death)

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

    “I really want out of here in a bad way, Buck.”

    Who talks like that?

  • ReverendRef

    “I really want out of here in a bad way, Buck.”

    Who talks like that?

    The faithful sidekick who’s about to die in any spaghetti western.

  • Ken
    “I really want out of here in a bad way, Buck.”

    Who talks like that?

    Someone who’s just realized her husband is a sociopath?  Sure, there were clues earlier, like when Buck was bargaining for a car in the middle of a nuclear war, but maybe Chloe missed them.  Lying there injured and trapped while he inspects the paintwork, though…

  • Baby_Raptor

    Seriously. You’re supposedly hanging in a car in a tree, with multiple highly painful injuries. 

    Swear words. Lots of them. And no patience whatsoever, especially when Bucky Boy decides “Hey, screw my terrified and in pain wife, I want to see how badly my car is damaged.”

  • Dogfacedboy

    When he got to the huge barrier at Michigan Avenue on the LSD, he swung left and gunned the Range Rover over some rough and relentless terrain toward the back roads he knew to be the quickest route to their destination.   Chloe winced, trying to elevate her broken ankle off the floor board as the vehicle jostled her about. 

    “Which hospital are you taking me to?” she asked, her voice weaker and higher than usual, her eyes searching the darkness intently for some clue as to the route he was taking.

    “Later, Babe,” Buck snapped, punching buttons on his cell phone with his left thumb, one eye vaguely watching the road.  “Gotta make a pit stop at the Rover Dealership first.”

    “The dealership?” Chloe asked, breathless and bewildered. 

    Buck held his right hand up toward her face to reassure her that he had the situation under control.  “Their service department had better have someone standing by to fix that front grille or I’m gonna suddenly develop a bad case of buyer’s remorse!”

  • Damanoid

    As his wife begs him to help her get out of the wrecked vehicle, Buck takes a flashlight and checks the damage to the tires and grille.

    This is one of the worst characters ever imagined.  He even manages to work in a ‘women can’t drive, har-har’ joke in the process.  How is it possible to write this sort of behavior without any hint of awareness?  Purely by instinct, this author has managed to distill the essence of antihumanity. 

    These books really don’t contain any unintentional humor, do they?  It is all unintentional horror.  The idea that a significant number of contemporary Americans consider these books morally or theologically instructive, rather than the complete antithesis of love and compassion, is genuinely chilling.   If a person can imagine that this series is compatible with the teachings of Jesus in any way, I suspect that they would probably also be comfortable burning heretics and witches.

    I am sorry if anyone has relatives who are really into these books, but practically every page of these things is over-the-top cartoon Evil.  If Christianity has anything good to teach, these books are the opposite of it.  In every sense, ‘Left Behind’ is Anti-Good.

  • aunursa

    The idea that a significant number of contemporary Americans consider these books morally or theologically instructive, rather than the complete antithesis of love and compassion, is genuinely chilling. 

    Who is your favorite character in the Left Behind Series? (2012 poll)
    Cameron (Buck) Williams: 46%
    Rayford Steele: 16%
    Rabbi Ben-Judah: 16%
    Chloe Steele Williams: 11%
    Nicolae Carpathia: 11%
    Amanda Steele: 2%

    Katia_0203, March 7th, 2009, 12:06 AM:
    I cried FOREVER when Chloe was killed; I loved her. I also really liked Rayford. My favorite minor character would probably be David Hassid. These books led me to Christ :)

  • Tricksterson

    Words fail me.

  • P J Evans

     That’s a really small poll you have there. At that size, it’s worth about as much as the paper it’s printed on.

  • aunursa

    Here’s the same poll question (with results) from the Left Behind website online newsletter.  Alas, it doesn’t indicate the total number of votes, but it was taken in 2007 (when Kingdom Come was published) at a time when the LB website presumably received exponentially more traffic that the site of the other poll…

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

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

    Here’s the same poll question (with results) from the Left Behind website online newsletter.

    Whoa, this must be a mistake.  Bruce Almighty didn’t make the list?

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

    Oh, no. He wasn’t good enough as an author avatar. Only Tsion Ben-Judah is worthy.

    (Seriously, have you noticed all the stuff Brucey and Tsion say are basically what LaHaye would probably say? Only Bruce is $GENERIC_PASTOR and Tsion is that cool awesome Jew who discovered Jesus. The unfortunate implications about putting a Jewish person in that position seems to have utterly escaped L&J.)

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

    But Bruce was one of THE Tribulation Force!  The writer of the 5000-page epistle that’s going to change the world!  The first one of the Good Guys to get killed off!  I thought they’d have a shrine to him by now.  Heck, even the stupidly-named Viv got a mention.

  • aunursa

    This poll was taken in 2007.  Bruce had died 11 years and 13 books ago.  The readers have short memories.

  • Lori

     

    Bruce had died 11 years and 13 books ago.  The readers have short memories.  

    I don’t think one has to suffer from a particularly short memory to have forgotten a character who was a boring non-entity who died 13 mind-numbing books ago.

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

    This poll was taken in 2007.  Bruce had died 11 years and 13 books ago.

    Hmph.  Irene wasn’t even in the story at all!  Or did she come back to life by then?

  • aunursa

    In a sense Irene Steele did come back to life.  Irene plays a central role in all three prequels, which were published in 2005 and 2006.  In The Rapture, readers view L&J’s concept of what heaven will be like from her perspective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I also want to know why Buc is so much more popular than Rayford. Both characters suck, but Rayford’s character is slightly less shallow than Buck’s (the scene where Rayford comes home to find his wife and son gone is probably the only genuinely evocative piece of writing in the entire series — literally, the book goes downhill from that point, and there was at least a small amount of dramatic tension with the whole Hattie love affair thing) and Rayford is usually in the same room as characters who are doing something interesting (unlike Buck, who is almost always on the phone, or at his desk, or in the bathroom, or on a plane). 

    I don’t think one has to suffer from a particularly short memory to have forgotten a character who was a boring non-entity who died 13 mind-numbing books ago.

    Besides, Tsion Ben Judah is basically the same person anyway. Really, this is a classic example of that thing they used to do on old sitcoms where, when a main actor leaves the show, they replace his character with another character that fills the same narrative role. “Spin City” did this, with Michael J. Fox and Charlie Sheen, and the Andy Griffith Show replaced Gomer Pyle with another guy who was exactly the same as him. 

    (Jenkins leans on this trope a lot; in a little while he’ll unleash a bloodbath that makes George R.R. Martin seem sentimental and attached, but you will barely notice because he always replaces a dead character with a functionally identical replacement within a few chapters at the most. Because Heaven forbid the Tribulation Force have to experience any sense of loss or sacrifice during the end of time!)

  • aunursa

    For readers who are choosing their favorite character between Rayford and Buck, it would not even occur to them that one is slightly less shallow than the other.  These fans picture themselves in these roles.  Younger readers may identify with 30-ish Buck more than 40-ish Rayford.  Many readers may fantasize about Buck as the more glamourous, more adventurous, James Bond-type role.  (I’m not suggesting that L&J’s GIRAT is in any way like James Bond, but that many readers would view Buck in that role.)

  • depizan

    ” many readers view Buck as a globe-trotting spy.”



    Where’s that Picard and Riker double face palm pic when you really need it.

  • Kiba

    Where’s that Picard and Riker double face palm pic when you really need it.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v618/ithilion/picard-riker-double-facepalm_zps7866da3b.jpg

    ^_^

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Fair enough. I can understand why readers would like them; I was just surprised that the more dynamic character is less favored. I mean, even the authors seem to like Rayford more — he is the only one who makes it to the very end. 

    (I’m not suggesting that L&J’s GIRAT is in any way like James Bond, but that many readers view Buck as a globe-trotting spy.)

    That does make sense though. It could be a scenario in which perception actually replaces reality. Rayford, the jet-setting (no pun intended) commercial airline pilot and personal chauffeur to the Antichrist, is much more of a globe-trotter and a spy than Buck is that this point. I can definitely buy that Buck might be more relatable to younger audiences.

    Although to be honest it’s hard to tell that Rayford and Buck are supposed to be from different generations since every character has the same narrative voice, worldview, even speech patterns — it’s almost like the moment you learn to speak you metamorphose into a mid-50s Midwestern WASP, regardless of your age or background.)

    So…Tsion Ben Judah’s our new goldfish?

    Pretty much. And Tsion is actually a subtle example of this since he was introduced a while before Bruce died and had another narrative function. 

  • aunursa

    I mean, even the authors seem to like Rayford more — he is the only one who makes it to the very end.

    Jerry Jenkins was the one who determined which of the original Tribulation Force characters survived to the end.  During an interview after Book #10, Jenkins indicated that he had determined which character would survive at some earlier point.  It’s interesting that LaHaye’s stand-in is the one who survives, while Jenkins’ stand-in is the last RTC to die before the end.

    While reading the series, I always assumed that Rayford would be the one to survive … primarily because he was the first character introduced in Book #1.  And Rayford seemed to be the central character around whom others revolved. Chloe is introduced as Rayford’s daughter. Buck meets Chloe through Rayford. And Rayford is considered the senior member and leader of the TF.  Therefore, even if Jenkins had not made a fatal error (no pun intended) at the end of Book #11*, I would have guessed that Rayford was the one who survived.

    * Book #11 ends with the cliffhanger, “With no blood pumping, no air moving, he fell limp and died.”  And the reader is left to guess whether it’s Buck or Rayford.  However, shortly before the ending, Buck is described as “mortally wounded”, while Rayford is “gravely wounded.”

  • Beroli

     Who’s the first character mentioned in books #7 and #8?

  • aunursa

    #1: Rayford Steele’s mind was on a woman he had never touched.
    #2: It was Rayford Steele’s turn for a break.
    #3: It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times. Rayford Steele’s knees ached as he sat behind the wheel of the rented Lincoln.
    #4: Rayford Steele wore the uniform of he enemy of his soul, and he hated himself for it.
    #5: Rayford Steele worries about Mac McCollum’s silence in the cockpit of Global Community One during the short flight from New Babylon to
    Tel Aviv.
    #6: Rage. No other word described it. Rayford knew he had much to be thankful for.
    #7: Leah Rose prided herself on thinking under pressure.
    #8: It was mid-afternoon in New Babylon and David Hassid was frantic.
    #9: Rayford Steele slept fitfully and awoke tangled in a woolen blanket, knees drawn to his chest and fists balled under his chin.
    #10: Rayford Steele had endured enough brushes with death to know that the cliché was true: Not only did your life flash before your mind’s eye, but your senses were also on high alert.
    #11: For the first time since takeoff, Rayford Steele had second thought about his and Abdullah Smith’s passenger.

  • Lori

    How does anyone look at a list of character names from these books and then pay good money to take a writing class from the man who came up with them?

  • P J Evans

     You know, when things are that bad, you don’t have time for your whole life to flash before your mind’s eye. You have time for ‘oh sh*t’, but not much else.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    So…Tsion Ben Judah’s our new goldfish?

  • Tricksterson

    Or how about on the phone at his dexk which is in the bathroom of a plane?  The ultimate Buck Williams scene!

    Hey!  At least Gomer got his own spinoff.

  • Lori

    Well, 46% of 57 is not a significant number in a country with 300+ million people.

    If we assume that 46% of everyone who bought or was given a copy felt the same way as the 57 people who voted then we’re getting to a depressing number, but I don’t think we have enough information to make that assumption.

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

    ****
    “I’m in the strangest place…” Chloe said, her voice trailing off weakly. A few moments later, Buck had hung up the phone, and the Author’s attention was elsewhere. She sighed, half-relief and half-annoyance.  She had already programmed Hattie’s number into the speed dial, just to have someone interesting to talk to.

    “Hey girl. So I’m stuck sideways, a good three feet off the ground in my fully-loaded Range Rover and LaJenkins won’t even let me unbuckle my seat belt!”

    “Sheesh hon, what happened? Car folded in half? Both arms broken?” 

    “Don’t be silly. I’m not allowed to help myself; I have to wait for my big, strong, Christian husband to show up and save me.” Chloe snorted, “I mean, yeah, my left arm is banged up, but apparently, I’m also too stupid to work a seat belt properly with my right hand. Oh, and somehow the car is wedged between an abutment and a tree, three feet off the ground.”

    “Could be worse, hon. I sneaked a peek at the outline. I’m due for the ‘abortion is a sin’ speech in a few chapters. Delivered from the crowd who thinks ‘would you abort the Anti-Christ’ is some kind of clever theology puzzle instead of idiotic prattle.”

    “Ouch. I think if I move around enough, the car will shift on the branches some. Maybe it’ll crush Buck when he shows up.”

    “You know better than that. It’ll almost crush Buck, in a way that could be exciting but will wind up just being boring. Hey, see if you can get him to sprawl out awkwardly at least.”

    “Oops! Gotta go, call waiting says the Buckster is once again phoning it in! Bye!”

  • Tofu_Killer

    As written by Jasper Fforde perhaps? Can we insert a missing Thursday?

  • Tricksterson

    I think the Bookworld must regard the LB series as their equivalent to a toxic waste dump.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    yea, Yes, YES!!!

  • Rhubarbarian82

     This sort of scene is not easy to pull off. It’s a kind of writing that almost requires one to story-board out the sequence as though you were preparing to film it.

    Speaking as a storyboard artist, I can  tell you from first hand experience that most writers flunk this kind of geography. A writer who can write good, clear action while keeping track of multiple characters and locations has a rare gift.

    Naturally, that gift is not on display in these books.

  • ReverendRef

    After that bit quoted above, with Buck having “no running left in him”
    even as “he sensed her fading,” I really expected the next lines to be
    Buck praying the beloved words of Isaiah 40:31 — “They that wait upon
    the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as
    eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not
    faint”

    That’s probably what Buck should have been saying/praying.  But this is BUCK, RTC we’re talking about here (and more importantly, Buck, RTC as created by LaJenkins), which means they’ve probably never read Isaiah 40.  I’m willing to bet the only part of Isaiah they’ve actually read is Isaiah 53 — the Suffering Servant chapter.

    Daniel + Revelation + Suffering Servant = RTC.

    Oh, and for my money, a scene of a car with damage that is still drivable would be from Planes, Trains and Automobiles after it’s driven between two trucks on the interstate and then catches fire.

  • fraser

     And what is this about her fading? She’s perfectly capable of witty banter, doesn’t seem to be in pain–it’s like the parody characters who shrug off insane amounts of damage as Just a Scratch.
    And you can bleed internally for a long time without dying.

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

    The Rover was in automatic and four-wheel drive. When he tried to go forward it seemed he was in a rut. He quickly switched to stick shift and all-wheel drive, gunned the engine, and popped the clutch. Within seconds he was free of the tree and out onto the sand.

    No.

    Nonono. Nononononononono.

    2 pretty big things wrong with this part: 1) Cars don’t come with 4WD AND AWD. 2) Cars that have a manual/automatic selector still DO NOT HAVE CLUTCHES.

    What he’s basically saying is “well, I noticed that the car I had couldn’t get the job done, so I magically replaced it with a car with different options.”

  • hidden_urchin

    What he’s basically saying is “well, I noticed that the car I had couldn’t get the job done, so I magically replaced it with a car with different options.

    Oh, it all makes sense then.  The Range Rover is still stuck in the tree or actually in a smashed heap on the ground.  This whole thought process is the result of a nasty concussion as Buck clearly suffered a head injury trying to rescue Chloe.  He’s gotten into another vehicle and is momentarily conflating the two in his confusion.

    I like this interpretation better than repeating that Jenkins is all hat and no cattle.

  • Kadh2000

    Reading along here, I’ve been under the impression that Chloe would be in a mangled car somewhere on the road among a bunch of other mangled cars.  I imagined from her dialogue that she would be pretty badly hurt and all but unconscious by the time Buick reached her. 

    I read the title of the post and guessed that Buick would find an abandoned car while searching for Chloe and drive that to the rescue. 

    From Jenkins’s description, I was able to put together the position of the car.  I wondered how it was possible to get in that position, but I could picture it.  Then Buick described the extend of damage to both Chloe and the car and I was extremely put out. 

    The final position of Chloe and car does quite explain why there was no need to worry about Buick calling his dad, brushing off first responders, bitching at Verna, and in general not doing everything he could to get to Chloe as soon as he heard about the accident.

    As a writer with a set of LEGO bricks, I have no trouble building odd scenarios and having them make sense.  Sadly, all this one needed was a few sentences to the effect of “Buick helped Chloe from the car.  With the change in its load, it shifted position and, ironically protected by the tree, fell to the ground in a more-or-less upright position.  With minimal effort Buick was able to get it going again.”  Back to plot.  Same amount of “drama” and saves 11.873 pages of space.

  • Guest

    I am an atheist but in times of emergency I catch myself think things like ‘someone please help me’ or, if a person is in trouble ‘please let them be alright’. These are not proper Christian prayers but generalised pleas to the universe in times of stress. Strange that Buck has less of an instict for prayer than an atheist.

    It’s weird that Chloe’s still in the car as well. It’s been hours, if she’s not badly hurt what stops her climbing out? She apparently need step-by-step instructions before she can figure out how to get out of a stationary car.

    The switching off of the car headlights would make sense in a zombie apocalypse or a place where there were likely to be hungry animals or unscruplous people about. Maybe Jenkins saw it in a movie.

    Buck doesn’t act like a man who is deeply in love with his new wife. Making jokes when your spouse is in trouble seems more like a thing for a man jaded by years of marriage to do. Even then it’s inappropriate when she’s still supposedly in mortal danger and in pain.

  • fnordcola

    “When he got to the huge barrier at Michigan Avenue on the LSD, he swung left and …”
    And now I want this to segue into a deranged yet oddly affecting monologue in the style of Hunter S. Thompson.

  • fraser

     I thought the same thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    ˙uʍop əpısdn ʇuəɯɯoɔ oʇ ɥɔıɥʍ uo ʇsod ʇɔəɟɹəd əɥʇ sı sıɥʇ

  • Thebewilderness

    That seems a lot of trouble to go to for a cheap shot at women drivers.

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

    I wonder if they’re ever going to explain how the accident happened in the first place.  Or how she managed to sit there for hours without anyone stopping to help.  (I guess everyone was busy fleeing the city.  It was just bombed, right?  Kind of hard to tell.)

  • Otrame

    “I’m pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You don’t help me now, I say ‘F–k you, Jobu.’ I do it myself”

    As an atheist, I consider that speach one of the great moments in American film. Forget about waiting for a god, just get out there and do it yourself.

    But, of course, the “heroes” of NRA won’t do anything even though God is on their side.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    He quickly switched to stick shift and all-wheel drive, gunned the
    engine, and popped the clutch. Within seconds he was free of the tree
    and out onto the sand.

    Sand?

    Leaving aside for the moment that I have been picturing this taking place in the southbound lanes, How, exactly, does Buck get from the street to the sand without jumping a concrete wall?  And a pedestrian pathway?

    Or did the not-so-nuclear blast knock half of the sand from the lakeshore onto the road?

  • Carstonio

    Since Buck is relatively new at being a Christian, it makes some sense that he wouldn’t pray for    help. He might still think of prayer as mostly a ritual.

  • WalterC

     Not really. This book generally makes it seem as if anyone who says the conversion prayer automatically begins thinking and talking like an evangelical Christian from the PMD tradition. They are instantly familiar with the jargon, the beliefs about sex, and the attitudes towards the outside world, as if they were raised in it.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    What WalterC said. Plus, by this point he’s been a RTC for nearly two years. In my experience that’s more than enough time to pick up the popular quirks, like using “just” as an “um” in spoken prayer, and using “praise the Lord” as an expression of surprise, frustration and everything in between.

  • Carstonio

    True. My point was that Buck’s lack of prayer in the situation would make sense if he were a realistic character and not a Jenkins stand-in. What you describe is one of LB’s massive failures of verisimilitude. All of the existing RTCs were gone so Buck and Rayford and the others wouldn’t have been able to pick up on those quirks, or to act like they had been raised in that environment. They’re recreating an evangelical church almost from scratch. Ellanjay could just as easily made these folks apostates or rebels who had grown up in that type of church but abandoned it in adulthood, and are now returning to it.

  • DorothyD

    I’d bet that if we gave him a half hour, some graph paper, a white board and some miniature models, he could walk us through all of that and show us what he was imagining in a way that made sense.

    Let’s see if this makes sense: The car is lying on it right side, supported by tree branches some unspecified distance off the ground, with its wheels resting against a concrete abutment or wall a few feet higher. Buck climbs on top of the vehicle (that is, onto its left side) to help Chloe escape. Apparently the extra weight doesn’t make the Rover shift on the branches. Chloe climbs out and up onto the abutment, at which time the Rover becomes unstable in the tree and starts to shift back upright, its left wheels scraping downward against the wall, so Buck desperatelyclimbs up onto the roof. There is a brief moment of suspense as the Rover tips back towards its right side during its descent and so puts Buck in danger of being crushed against the tree.

    But the suspense passes without notice as Jenkins conveniently flips the vehicle onto its four wheels by allowing the bent branches underneath it to slip free when the right tires hit the ground first and the Rover bounces. It lands with the left side (where only seconds ago Buck had been sitting) a mere inch from the concrete wall. In other words, Buckie would have been squashed if he’d stayed where he was.

    In short, forget Chloe. It was All About Buck and how he’d narrowly escaped being done in by a tree. Whew. 

  • Trixie_Belden

    Yes, I think you’ve got it exactly right.  My guess as to what would have had to happen is this:  For some reason the car became airborne as Chloe was speeding along (was it a shock wave from the bomb?), tilting over to the right as it flew off towards the side of the road.  The car was flying  high enough to sail over the wall, or the abutment, on the side of the road and it lands on its right side in the strong branches of  what would have to be a large tree (I think Fred is right in guessing it must be some kind of evergreen) standing several feet from the road.  So the wheels are up against the concrete abutment and the top of the car is close to the tree trunk.

    That’s a lot of work  the hive mind had to do to make sense of one scene.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     I’m still a little confused about the issue of the car falling out of a tree and landing onto a concrete surface. Is this tree growing out of the concrete, or is it growing on an open-earth area beside the concrete surface? This probably isn’t an author mistake, but I still can’t even visualize what’s going on after Buck frees the car from the tree.

  • Trixie_Belden

    My best guess is the tree is growing on a patch of (sandy?) land beside the roadway, several feet away from the abutment at the side of the road.  I still don’t see how Buck was able to drive back up onto the road so easily. If there was a concrete wall at the side of the road, and that road is an overpass, and the car sailed over the abutment at the side of the road and into the tree and dropped slowly to the ground, Buck would be at least six or so feet below the surface of the roadway, with a straight sided concrete wall  to one side of the car, and the road surface would be over the top of that wall.  He would have to drive on the dirt alongside the road for quite a distance until the grading leveled off.  

  • GeniusLemur

     Well, to be fair, I can’t see the target audience for this stuff getting worked up about the fate of a mere woman.

  • Will Hennessy

    The physics of this scene are forcing me to remind everyone that this is what LaRayford and Buckins believe is GOING TO HAPPEN very, VERY soon.

    Also: “Who needs feet? You’ve got the flying car!” — Randall Graves

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    For some reason, I kept coming back to the knowledge that Chloe calls her husband Buck. Not honey, or dear, or even Cameron. Buck. I know it’s not unheard of for a lover to refer to their SO by the same nickname as their friends, but for some reason it stuck out as particularly weird here. Must be the terrible dialogue and general bad writing that makes it more obvious.

  • Trixie_Belden

    With much groaning and whimpering, Chloe came climbing out of the car, with Buck’s help.

    I guess it’s just another example of Jenkins’s terrible writing, but I find the  phrase”with much” quite jarring in this context.   Putting “With much”  at the start of that sentence gives it a faintly contemptuous ring.  As in:  “With much groaning and whimpering, Jerry put a band-aid over his paper cut.”  It’s the way you would write when a character is making a big deal out of a little injury.  Chloe has just been in fairly serious car accident, no?  Her ankle hurts enough so that she thinks it may be broken.  I’ve never yet broken a bone by accident, but from my experiences with bones being repositioned due to corrective oral surgery, I can say I’m quite sure that broken bones must be very painful.  They would probably make that entire area of your body ache with an intensity that blots everything else out of your mind 

    I suspect it was written that way due to a reflexive contempt for females. 

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I’ve passed out exactly three times in my life. Once after a long illness. Twice after breaking bones. I had to endure an entire night without pain killers for the second bone (my wrist), and the pain was severe enough that sleep was impossible.

    So yeah, pretty painful.

  • P J Evans

     I broke (or at least cracked) a rib or two once. It hurt to laugh. Or sneeze. Or cough. Ached for two months while healing. (They can’t do much for broken ribs.)

  • Trixie_Belden

    Yes, that’s what I thought.  And now that I’m thinking about it again, the use of the word “whimpering” nags at me as well.  It’s not that the word choice is wrong precisely – whimpering is exactly what you do in that kind of pain – but it’s a word that’s so often used in reference to animals and children that using it here seems suspect, and it adds to the underlying feeling of contempt

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

    The way people like Jenkins tend to describe or refer to women I suspect “whimpering” is an automatic infantilization (similar to calling grown women “girls”) that L&J wouldn’t even realize they did if it jumped up and biffed them in the face.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Apropos of nothing, just yesterday I found out that the “Dan” in Dan Quayle is short for “Danforth”. So I was apparently wrong to mock Rayford for having a name so ridiculous it couldn’t be real, and I shall now picture Dan Quayle in all of Ray’s scenes.

  • Lori

    Apropos of nothing, just yesterday I found out that the “Dan” in Dan
    Quayle is short for “Danforth”. So I was apparently wrong to mock
    Rayford for having a name so ridiculous it couldn’t be real, and I shall
    now picture Dan Quayle in all of Ray’s scenes.

    In fairness to Dan Quayle (words I never thought I’d use and hope never to use again), his first name is James. Danforth is his middle name. I assume Danforth was a family name, although I don’t know that for sure.

    ETA: I assume he didn’t go by James or Jim because that’s also his father’s name (although Dan is not a Jr or III, even though some people think he is) and using Dan was disambiguation.

  • caryjamesbond

    Like everyone else, I’m rewriting this scene in my head and..

    why not just flip the fucking car?  Bomb hits, wheel runs up the concrete embankment, car flips. Chloe can get pretty much the same injuries, plus they would realistically keep her trapped (injured wrist would make it very tricky to pop the belt and catch yourself before hitting your head) the flow of blood to her head makes her woozy…

    above all-easy to freakin’ visualize.  Car. Car upside down.  Done. 

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

    It would have just been easier and made ten times more sense if Jenkins had gone for the standard “stalled on the side of the road / semi-drivable / driver injured for some reason” trope that’s part and parcel of literature and movies and TV shows all over. It’s not hella flashy or cool-tastic, but it’s serviceable and the reader can picture it, which would have freed Jenkins to describe Buck’s worry and fear for Chloe.

    It takes some kind of sheer anti-Midas talent to take scenes and make shite of them.


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