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 –”


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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  • Sue White

    “Normally that would be funny –”

    In what universe?

  • WalterC

    She can make fun of his crappy jokes after he’s freed her from the Range Rover.

    If Buck is anything like Rayford, all it takes is even the slightest hint of mockery or disrespect to get him to abandon someone to their fate,

  • hidden_urchin

    Yeah, that’s why Buck takes the time to check the Range Rover for damage.  It doesn’t mock him for his stupidity or distract him with trivial things like broken bones and pain.

  • Someguy who hates pants

    Chloe’s injuries.
       How can she tell her wrist is only sprained but know her ankle is broken? Her knee and shoulder hurt but she doesn’t   guess if they are broken or sprained or even just bruised.  How can she stand and walk on her”broken ankle” one of the rules to decide if an ankle needs xrays to determine if it is broken is the patient’s ability to bear weight, if you can walk 4 steps no xrays in many Emergency departments. Now if she is just thinking her ankle is broken I can forgive her walking around, however I bet her self diagnosis while sitting in a dark car will be spot on.  If her ankle is broken and she keeps walking on it, it will just make it worse.

        How did she break her ankle if she was seat belted in and and the car is driveable?  For an ankle to break you either need force directly applied to the bones or a strong twisting force.  Being belted in she would have been moving the same way as the car, so no twisting force.  For force to the bone if the floorboards or door or something wasn’t driven into the ankle where did the force come from. If she wasn’t seat-belted in I could see how she could have been bracing herself and been injured that way, but as written it doesn’t make sense.

    Buck’s Driving
    Buck popping the clutch(on an automatic, nice) is stupid.  When stuck isn’t rocking the vehicle the perfered way to gain momentum and work yourself free.  If you are spinning your tires popping the clutch will just make you break  traction and spin all the more. If you need more power wouldn’t it be better to give it gas in a steady fashion instead of hitting the gas all at once?  Sudden burst of energy by popping the clutch or just flooring it can damage the transmission or the powertrain.  Especially vexing in that this is a car that has just been in an accident and the suspension and drive train have already been through the original accident and whatever else happened to get it out of the tree.  Buck looks at the tires but does he crawl under the Rover and just look to make sure everything just looks alright. Speaking of checking the car has damage to the grill, that thing right in front of the radiator, and no mention of Buck checking on the radiatior. 
    Maybe Buck could have put something under the wheels for traction or jacked up the car and pushed the car sideways off the jack to move the car. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    If her foot’s bent wrong, it’s probably safe to assume something important broke.

  • Cathy W

    …now that you mention it, has there ever been a transmission you could switch between automatic and manual? If such a thing existed, it doesn’t look like Range Rovers ever came with one as an option.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The 2000s Mazda passenger cars, some of them have a kind of manualish transmission? Like, you can shift gears up and down but you don’t need a clutch.

    I guess maybe if Buck wants to feel ~manly~ he could put the Rover in that kind of a mode, but then there wouldn’t need to be a clutch for that.

  • Jamoche

    I’m reading a Nero Wolfe book (Please Pass the Guilt) and a line struck me as relevant to today’s dozen pages. It’s while Wolfe is stumped on the case:

    If what I was after was merely to fill pages, it would be easy to add a dozen or so with the next couple of days

    (for those of you unfamiliar with the series, they’re told in first-person POV by Wolfe’s assistant Archie Goodwin, who knows when to edit out the boring stuff :) )

  • GeniusLemur

     Conan Doyle has a good trick for situations like this. Whenever there’s a lot of record-examining drudgery to do, Holmes goes off and does it, comes back, and summarizes the results for Watson.

  • Tybult

    The picture I get is that Chloe was driving along on a road that’s elevated above the landscape. She slid off during the chase (perhaps going through a guardrail but Ellenjay never mention that).
    The car was caught between the tree and the concrete abutment, but wedged so that it doesn’t touch the ground, and its right side is down.
    But then this:
    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.

    I have no idea how that works – the tree would have to be to the right to get the car wedged against the concrete to the left.

    And I have no idea how the car got there without any damage.

    And what if the car had been damaged? I see it like this:

    Chloe climbed out and stood off to the side. Buck began inspecting the car. Suddenly, he dropped to his knees and wailed.
    “What?” Chloe asked. “I’m fine.”
    Buck lifted his fists to the sky. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
    “Buck, I’m right here. It’s okay.”
    “Not my baby!” Buck screamed. “Not my baby!” He broke down into sobs, and leaned over to place his palm against the cracked transmission housing.

  • Sue White

    Wait a minute.  Chloe was in the middle of a car chase when the car went into the tree, wasn’t she?  What happened to the police car?  

  • Ruby_Tea

    They’re probably like the monsters in video games with bad AI–the second they lose sight of you, they forget you exist.

  • Mrs Grimble

    What strikes me about this scene is that Buck never checks Chloe over
    for injuries when he gets her out.  Does he even say something like “Can
    you walk?” or “How’s your head?” or “Are you OK on your own while I
    drive around to you?”
    A month ago, I had a bad fall on on the
    doorstep and hit my shinbone on the edge of the step very hard, just
    below the kneecap.  It damm well HURT; I was swearing my head off for a
    good ten minutes.  Luckily, the bone didn’t break – I could still put
    weight on it.  But it hurt really badly, like I said, and it immediately
    swelled up to a quite magnificent size (it’s still a little swollen).
    husband was with me; normally, he cracks jokes about anything.  But it
    was only a good hour later, when he’d seen me swallow some high-strength
    painkillers, that he dared to make a lame remark about how I needed better glasses. At the time, when he was helping me up checking me over and making me comfortable, he was far too worried and anxious for jokes.

  • DorothyD

    A month ago, I had a bad fall on on the doorstep and hit my shinbone on the edge of the step very hard, just below the kneecap.

    Ouch. I hope it’s all better now.

    At the time, when he was helping me up checking me over and making me comfortable, he was far too worried and anxious for jokes.

    It’s not just about the physical injury, it’s about the the psychological distress of a bad fall and injury or, y’know, having your car blown off the road and into a tree by a nuclear blast and then hanging there sideways for a few hours. 

    A story my husband tells – once on
    his daily commute he saw a pickup truck come flying off an overpass and
    land nose-first on the pavement a few hundred yards ahead of him.
    Probably it had hit a snow bank and gotten launched up over the bridge
    railing. He was the first person to reach to truck and was fully
    expecting to see blood and carnage what from the way the woman inside
    was screaming. The truck was totaled, the driver had… a broken

    Yay for airbags and I hope she didn’t end up with PTSD because seriously…

    But yeah it’s difficult to figure how the Rover could have been blown
    over the railing and into a tree without sustaining any damage while
    Chloe is injured badly enough that she can’t climb out on her own.

    Also, how does Buck inspect the car if it’s up in a tree??

  • hidden_urchin

    The weird thing is that even a relatively minor injury can cause psychological distress even in the absence of something truly terrifying like having your car impersonate an airplane.

    This past summer I broke my toe and thought I was either going to throw up, faint, or both because the experience was so unsettling even though the pain, relatively speaking, wasn’t that bad.  I had to lie down for a good half hour before I felt like I could stand without falling over.
    Did my mother come check on me, even though she had been standing right next to me when it happened and saw me run for the bathroom while swaying like a drunken sailor? 
    Nope.  She was, wait for it, on the phone.

    I find it hilarious now.  At the time, not so much. 

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    I was once cycling up to a junction (a roundabout). There was a car stopped in front of me, waiting in a queue. On a bike, you can skip that sort of queue, but I generally prefer not to. I’ll stay in the road and move with the traffic. So I was in the middle of the lane, slowing down, ready to come to a stop behind this car. But you can’t change gear on a stationary bike, so I was fiddling with the gears trying to get them down before I stopped, misjudged my distance, and bashed into the back of the car. Slowly. No damage of any sort was done to anyone or anything.

    I was still shaken enough (by my own silliness, really), that I walked the rest of that journey.

    I can well imagine that a more serious accident could lead to a fair bit of trauma. But I think I almost prefer EllenJay to ignore that sort of trauma than to make a ham-fisted attempt at portraying it.


  • lalouve

    We have the same mother, clearly….

  • depizan

    The fact that Rovers are generous inside just makes her getting injured even more unlikely. Cars are big metal boxes that protect people. You get hurt in an accident either because they get squished into you or you (not belted in) get squished into them. If the left side of the car is merely scraped, how did Chloe get injured?

    I suddenly suspect that the authors have never been in car accidents. Or known anyone who has. A friend of mine was driving a modern normal sized sedan that was T-boned on the driver’s side. The car was totaled. She ended up with a few bruises and a temporary aversion to similar intersections. Chloe shouldn’t have worse than seatbelt bruises.

  • P J Evans

    Chloe shouldn’t have worse than seatbelt bruises.

    If she got thrown in the right direction, she could hit something like a lever on the center console. (Broken ribs and nasty bruises.) Not to mention that flipping over tends to throw you around.

  • depizan

     This is where the writing fails us horribly.  We’re left – as the audience – trying to figure out how Chloe got the injuries suggested while buckled into a seat in a car that has a scratched paint job.  They aren’t _impossible_.  Certainly weird shit happens in real car accidents.  But fictional car accidents have to make more sense than real ones, not less.

    First there’s the unclear accident itself.  How _did_ the car get where it ended up?  Did she drive off the road when the bomb went off?  Did the shockwave throw the car there?  Aliens? (That would explain the missing police.  Abducted.)

    Then we have all of Chloe’s injuries being on her left side, as if she were thrown against the door (I guess?) at somepoint in the accident, but I’m not sure the directions of force would be right, what with the car ending up with the other side down.  (Unless it’s meant to have rolled somewhere in there?)

    Then the car is so wide that a 5’7 tall person needs all kinds of help getting out of it.  (Which would make it less likely that obstructions would be close enough to the driver for them to bang into as long as the car stayed intact.)

    Then the car only has scratches.

    I don’t know.  It just really bothers me that she has injuries sufficient to keep her from getting herself out of the car (possibly including a broken ankle) and the car has… scratches.  I dislike this both because it seems improbable, and because it seems like the author, like Buck, thinks the car is a more important character.

  • Vaughn Lowe

    Sometimes a joking attitude can be helpful in an emergency situation.  You want to keep the other person and yourself from panic, so you put on a “it’s no big deal” face, something that EMT’s usually do.

    The thing is, in a written work you have to explain that’s what Buck is trying to do, otherwise the reader will interpret as a genuine “don’t give a damn” attitude.  Same thing with inspecting the car.  He -could- be seeing if it’s still drivable, so they can get the hell out of Dodge, but you have to tell the reader that, otherwise you look like a jerk.

  • Greenygal

    Same thing with inspecting the car.  He -could- be seeing if it’s
    still drivable, so they can get the hell out of Dodge, but you have to
    tell the reader that, otherwise you look like a jerk.

    Not just the reader–he needs to tell Chloe that.  One of the reasons that joke comes off so amazingly badly is that Buck isn’t joking as he helps Chloe, he’s explicitly joking instead of helping Chloe.  If there’s a reason he can’t immediately help his injured wife out of the car when she asks him to, he needs to tell her that.  Softening it with a joke would be fine, replacing it with a joke really isn’t.

  • quietglow

     The confusing thing is how the Land Rover fell sideways onto a tree
    (assuming pine, as Fred does) without structural damage. The frame might
    be bent when it fell five feet sideways onto a tree trunk. You’d think
    the roof would be bent in and the windows broken, with the safety glass
    spidered where it wasn’t gone. Flipping and landing would have knocked
    things around more. How did it just damage the front grille? 

  • Trixie_Belden

    I think the answer is Jenkins, as the deity of theses characters, has contrived for a miraculous event to occur: the car goes off the road and falls, not onto the tree trunk but into the space between the abutment wall and the tree trunk, with strong tree branches stretching out between the tree trunk and the concrete wall and acting as a sort of perfect net, and, if that isn’t miraculous enough for you, the branches then slowly give way and lower the car, twisting it upright as the car is lowered to the ground, just like it was in a hoist.   Yeah, I know.  Pretty contrived.

  • quietglow

    So Jesus has made another appearance, just as a tree.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Indeed.  Sad to say, based on what I’ve heard about the rest of the series, tree-Jesus is much more helpful than actual-Jesus.  We also can’t forget the amazingly perfect placement of the abutment wall, which is placed so that it is far enough away that it does not stop the progress of the car as it slides down the branches, but close enough to serve as a stabilizer for the car when it hits the ground and bounces and lurches and smacks into the concrete on its left, then finally comes to rest.
    Buck is clearly more impressed by the miracle of getting the car back in drivable condition than his is by finding his wife alive and in fairly good shape after a close brush with a (nuclear?) bomb blast.  

  • Tricksterson

    Maybe the tree helped her because Chloe is secretly a druidess?

  • quietglow

     See, already pagan idolatree springs up around Treesus.

  • Mrs Grimble

    Rereading the post, I was struck by the fact that the first thing Buck says when he sees hi injured wife stuck in the car is “Turn off the lights!”  OK, I can get that he’s worried about being seen, so he doesn’t straightaway ask her how she is.  But why didn’t he already know about the headlights being on?  He and Chloe were continually on the phone to each other – didn’t she think to tell him “You should be seeing me soon, I’ve got the headlights on” ?
    It only makes sense if you know the authors never go back and edit their stuff, but just sit at the keyboards for a couple of hours each day of non-stop writing and then fling the results at their publisher.  L Ron Hubbard used to write his stories the same way; according to his first wife he never  edited or rewrote a thing.  The differences between Hubbard and Ellenjay are
     a) Hubbard was actually pretty good at writing stories that way (not that results were terrifically good, but if you read them, you’re never likely to complain  about 12-page phone calls holding up the action);
     and b) unlike Ellenjay, he was writing for a living, getting paid a penny a word so he needed to churn the stuff out fast.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Rereading the post, I was struck by the fact that the first thing Buck says when he sees hi injured wife stuck in the car is “Turn off the lights!” OK, I can get that he’s worried about being seen, so he doesn’t straightaway ask her how she is.

    I’m not sure I actually do understand this.  Even leaving aside the fact that it’s stupid for Buck not to want Chloe to have the best emergency care, bombs have just beem dropped on the city and Chloe’s accident has to be only one of thousands.  It’s a freaking war zone out there, after all.

  • Jamoche

    “Turn off the lights!” … It’s a freaking war zone out there, after all.

    Ooh, I know this! I learned it from Bugs Bunny! In a city during a war you have to turn all your lights out!

    … well, it makes as much sense as any other theory.

  • banancat

    Buck inspecting the car seems to me like a failure of narrator POV. I don’t think these books ever use an omniscient POV so the only way for the audience to know that the car is likely drivable is for Buck to know. Why the authors want to decrease suspense and assure us that the car is fine in the first place is a completely different matter of bad writing.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Hell, it could have been written into the story, as sketched:

    – Buck finds Chloe; she may have a concussion but as far as he can tell she has no broken bones.

    – He carefully gets into the truck and eases Chloe gently into the passenger seat.

    – He starts the car, hears a worrisome grinding/growling sound and THEN wonders “is it drivable?”

    – Deciding there’s nothing but to try and get it on the road, he punches the gas, rocketing the truck out of the ditch and it shudders down the road as he trundles at 20 MPH to get out of the disaster zone.

  • Ken

    I though it might be helpful to review the collision, so scrolled back to it – which is mid-September in Slacktiverse time, and forty pages (!) ago in NRA time.  There was a high-speed chase offscreen, and all we heard was what Chole relayed to Buck over the phone (of course), ending with:

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

    So not too much help with the accident scene. 

    I do find the explosion intriguing – was this the sound of a perhaps-nuclear bomb blowing the car off the road?  Apparently, yet the cell phone keeps working, and as we’ve just seen the car wasn’t that badly damaged.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Oh look, an opinion poll circulated as proof of fact.

  • aunursa

    Online polls are not scientific.  I posted the results of this poll, and the previous poll on this thread, for fun — and to note that many Left Behind fans love and respect the very characters that we find repulsive.

    [aunursa rolls his eyes]

  • Charity Brighton

    It’s interesting though, to see how many people love and respect characters that are clearly meant to be repulsive. I want to meet the 11% of PMD fans of the series who loved Nicolae Carpathia the most.

    I’m also interested in learning how they picked the options for their poll — Viv Ivins and Irene Steele are basically nonentities outside of the prequels; Viv does appear in the main series but she doesn’t really do anything noteworthy or interesting, and her role could easily be merged with Leon’s. 

    They left off David Hassid too, who was actually a viewpoint character, or even important early characters like Bruce Barnes.

  • aunursa

    It’s worse than that.  These characters are not meant to be repulsive.  They’re meant to be admirable.

  • CharityB

     I meant Nicolae Carpathia. We’re meant to like Buck and Rayford, but I assumed that Jenkins wanted us to hate Carpathia. The fact that 10% of respondents liked and respected him the most of any character is interesting; the fact that he was even included in all these polls is moreso — whoever came up with the poll must have realized, on some level, that Carpathia is essentially the protagonist of the series (in the sense that his actions drive the plot).

  • Lori


    I want to meet the 11% of PMD fans of the series who loved Nicolae Carpathia the most.  

    I think you have. Isn’t he Ruby’s favorite, for values of “favorite” that apply to books Ruby reads to mock them?

  • PatBannon

    I’m with you on this. You’re not citing these statistics as irrefutable proof of your theory, you’re citing them because these are the only data we have and we might as well have a look at them.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That seems unnecessarily narky. Can you two get a blog or something to pick at each other because your multi-year fight is not actually that much fun to watch.

  • Lliira

    Aunursa likes to post opinion polls as if they prove deeply important things all the time. Some of us have developed an immediate allergic reaction when we see aunursa post an opinion poll. More than one person is having a multi-year fight with aunursa over this. Personally, I’ve gotten to the point where I just scroll past every single thing aunursa posts — I have multiple reasons, but his unremitting barrage of opinion polls is near the top of the list.

    Imo, there is no such thing as being unnecessarily snarky at aunursa about opinion polls, unless one starts to threaten violence or something.

  • aunursa

    The fight is mostly his.  I LIKED and expressed support for one of his comments earlier on this thread.  I try not to hold grudges.

  • Lliira


    Wow. Jenkins really, really, really seriously hates women. What the everloving… Buck checks the car first?! He can’t comfort his wife in the slightest? I wonder if Chloe’s movement that caused the car to almost smush Buck was entirely accidental…

    This is not how human beings behave! Chloe should be sobbing and begging for help (pain and terror), Buck should be trying to comfort and help her (love and terror), and after she’s out, they should both be crying on each other’s shoulders in happiness that neither of them is dead. 

    And this should be told from CHLOE’S perspective. She’s the one with the most to lose, she’s the one going through the most, ergo, she’s the one who needs to be the viewpoint character so long as she’s able to be coherent, which she obviously is. Ridiculously coherent for the amount of pain she must be in. 

    Also there needs to be more danger while this is going on — fuel leak? Evil minions following Buck? Another nuclear strike coming? But the plot-failure is lesser than the humanity-failure, which just keeps getting worse in these horrible wastes of paper.

  • spinetingler

    “four-wheel drive…all-wheel drive”

    I’m not the biggest gear-head, but aren’t those the same thing?

    (unless the FLRR suddenly grew an extra set of wheels…)

  • depizan

    After this sequence, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it grew legs and went waltzing off into the night humming to itself.

  • Dave

    As it has been explained to me, “four wheel drive” refers to the driver’s ability to shift power between the front and rear axle, whereas “all wheel drive” refers to the transmission’s ability to allocate power differentially among all four wheels.

    I have no idea if that actually makes sense.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I remember snarking that and actually there is apparenly a slight difference: all-wheel drive doesn’t require being parked and moving a switch (and in some cases, fiddling with something on the wheels of a car or truck) to engage the four-wheel drive mode.

  • Ken

     Well obviously Buck would insist on the ability to switch to all-wheel drive without stopping.  He probably got the big buttons on the steering wheel that let the car jump obstacles, extrude tire spikes for ice traction, drive underwater, and deploy whirling saw blades to cut through barriers.

  • Lori

    I have no religious beliefs and yet somehow I feel certain that comparing Buckaroo to Speed Racer is sacrilege.

  • Tricksterson

    Yet, you’ve unintentionally made me conflate him with bauckaroo banzai.  Curse you Lori the Lorypus!  Curse you!

  • Lori

    I am so sorry. I somehow failed to notice that when I typed it. Lord, dissing both Speed Racer and Buckaroo Banzai in one thread. Will the evils wrought by LB never cease?

  • Launcifer

    Look on the bright side: we could be in the dimension where Buck was gunned down by evil atheists in book two and subsequently rebuilt as a cyborg knight templar.

    Actually, that might still have made for a better story than the one we got.

  • Lori

    That would absolutely be a better story than the one we got. Cyborg knight templar is legitimately awesome and definitely better than being just another self-involved jerk with delusions of grandeur.

    If the cyborg knight was the villain in either an episode of Speed Racer or a new Buckaroo Banzai movie that would be totally made of win.

  • Tricksterson

    Not to mention that it would mean something had actually happened in Book 2 (Besides Bruce dying offscreen)

  • Tricksterson


  • Invisible Neutrino

    Buck with a JamesBondMobile somehow simultaneously amuses and terrifies me.

  • GeniusLemur

     Any else suspect we’d get a lot more yaking about how wonderful the extra features were than actually using them?

  • Inquisitive Raven

     Speaking as someone who’s driven both 4WD and AWD vehicles, not exactly.

    They both transmit power to all four wheels, but AWD does it full time, and traction control lets it dynamically adjust the amount of power going to each wheel, to quote Subaru’s own ad copy “from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip.”

    The four wheel drive vehicle I’m familiar with was driver switchable between four wheel drive and two wheel drive. In two wheel drive, it was a rear wheel drive vehicle. There was a locking mechanism in the front hubs that had to be engaged by hand before you could use the four wheel drive, but once it was engaged, you could switch dynamically between the two using a shifter lever inside the car.  Actually, there were three settings 2WD, 4WDL(ow), and 4WDH(igh). 4WDL gave you more power at low speed, but it really wasn’t meant for high speed. That’s what 4WDH was for. Please note, that’s the specific 4WD vehicle I have experience with. Others might work differently.

  • Kiba

    I was in a car accident a few years back (totaled our car but the guys who hit us…theirs was fine) and walked away with a marvelous bruise from the seat belt (went from left shoulder down to lower right rib) and a fractured sternum (damn thing still pops and grinds sometimes when I stretch). It took me over two weeks before I could raise my hands higher than my waist.  

  • banancat

    Honestly, Buck and Rayford are so similar in their awfulness that I still have trouble remembering which is which. I haven’t followed these posts since the beginning, but it has been over a year and I frequently get their names mixed up.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Rayford is the fully-loaded pilot. Buck is the greatest doer-of-anything of all time. :P