NRA: One tough coroner

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 111-113

Chapter 6 begins with a quiet scene. Buck Williams relaxes after breakfast as he plans Sunday’s service at New Hope Village Church:

Buck sat bleary-eyed at the breakfast table, his ear stinging and his rib cage tender. Only he and Loretta were up. She was heading to the church office after having been assured she would not have to handle the arrangements for Bruce’s body or for the memorial service, which would be part of Sunday morning’s agenda. Verna Zee was asleep in a small bedroom in the finished basement. “It feels so good to have people in this place again,” Loretta said. “Y’all can stay as long as you need to or want to.”

Taken on its own, that’s a capable little portrait of ordinary life at Loretta’s house in the Chicago suburbs.

But coming after the previous five chapters, this scene is stark raving bonkers.

The previous chapters don’t allow any possibility for ordinary life in the Chicago suburbs. The previous chapters seemed to blow ordinary life to smithereens. Yet Jerry Jenkins carries on as though nothing has changed, catching readers up on all sorts of mundane details about the accommodations at Loretta’s house, the plans for Bruce’s funeral, and Buck’s joy over his new “deluxe universal cell phone.”

This is one of many places in this book where I had to stop reading and flip back to double-check what I’d read earlier to make sure I hadn’t imagined it all.

Isn’t World War III going on? The red horse of the apocalypse? And didn’t the Antichrist just destroy Chicago with nuclear weapons?

Flip flip flip. Hmmm. Yeah, it says that’s what happened. But like so many things in these books, it both happened and also didn’t happen. It’s as though everything we just read in the previous chapters was all a dream.

“We’re grateful,” Buck said. “Amanda may sleep till noon, but then she’ll get right on those arrangements with the coroner’s office. Chloe didn’t sleep much with that ankle cast. She’s dead to the world now, though, so I expect her to sleep a long time.”

Buck had used the dining-room table to put back in order all the pages from Bruce’s transcripts that had been strewn throughout the back of the Range Rover. He had a huge job ahead of him, checking the text and determining what would be best for reproduction and distribution. …

Jenkins’ tone is so blandly matter-of-fact that we can almost be lulled into following along. He seems to have so utterly forgotten World War III that its tempting to forget it ourselves.

But then we keep tripping over all the impossibilities Jenkins lays out in front of us. Such as Amanda making “arrangements with the coroner’s office.”

The coroner’s office is in downtown Chicago.

Downtown Chicago was just struck with multiple nuclear missiles.

PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to the nuclear assault on the city Tuesday, Wednesday’s regularly scheduled trash collection will be postponed until Thursday. All city and county offices will be open Wednesday. All city high schools will have a two-hour delay. Elementary schools will remain closed due to disintegration of all pupils 19 months ago.

It seems unlikely that the coroner’s office would be open today. Amanda might as well be trying to call the coroner’s office on Alderaan.

But OK, let’s try to get past that. We’ve been told that these nuclear missiles are some kind of special, non-radioactive weapon. Let’s interpret that to mean that these bombs are really small, such that maybe multiple such non-atomic atomic explosions in downtown Chicago left the coroner’s office intact.

So let’s just make a huge leap. Let’s just assume that the coroner was not killed in the attack, that the coroner’s downtown office was not damaged, that Bruce’s body was transported there without delay or incident despite the bombing, that the phone lines and power for the office continue to function as they did before the attack, that the coroner himself and all of his staff managed to make their way through all the debris and devastation to get to the building and that now, today — one day after the Antichrist’s military nuked the city of Chicago — the Cook County Office of the Medical Examiner is open for business during regular office hours.

That’s a huge leap, but we still have problems. Bruce Barnes was killed in the first brief wave of conventional bombing, in which dozens of other people also died. That single mass-casualty incident at the hospital in Arlington Heights would be enough to completely overwhelm the coroner’s staff for weeks to come. But again, that single incident was followed just hours later by the nuclear destruction of O’Hare International Airport, and then still later by the non-radioactive nuclear attack on downtown Chicago mentioned above.

So even if we make the huge leap to say that the coroner is alive, that the coroner’s office was not destroyed, and that the office is now open for business with working electricity and phones, it still seems unlikely that anyone there would be willing or able to answer those phones. They may be a little too busy dealing with the million or more casualties in the area that have occurred since Bruce died.

That context also makes everything we’re told there about “Sunday morning’s agenda” at the church seem utterly wrong.

The events that have just occurred are not the sort of thing that one should plan to address in the upcoming Sunday service. It is, rather, the sort of thing that means you need to get your butt to the church, immediately, to start coordinating all the search-and-rescue, grief-counseling, blood donation, bandage-rolling, information sharing, vigil praying, candle-lighting, food and water distributing, etc., that anyone connected with that church will and must be doing for several days without taking any breaks for Sunday services or sleep.

It simply doesn’t occur to Buck, or to the authors, that anyone from the congregation other than Bruce might have been killed in World War III. They keep reciting that bit from Revelation 6 about the horsemen of the Apocalypse now riding forth — “And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword …” — but it seems that power was not given unto them over the fourth part of New Hope Village Church.

This is partly yet another example of the authors’ general principle that non-named characters do not matter, but I think it also has to do with some weird notion that I can’t quite grasp having to do with the city and its suburbs. The effect of the nuclear strikes on Chicago seems to have confined itself to the city limits. NHVC is in the suburbs, and therefore is unscathed — not because it’s further removed from the blast radius of the attacks, but because the suburbs, by definition, cannot be harmed by an attack on downtown.

Since New Hope is a suburban congregation, Buck is not worried that anyone from the church might have been harmed in the bombing. And I suppose the suburban people of New Hope have only suburban friends and suburban relatives. So Bruce’s is the only funeral they need to worry about. And they can let those downtown, urban churches deal with the recent unpleasantness in the city itself.

Yes, yes, you’re surely thinking, enough already about the millions of people killed or injured in the bombing. What about the really important stuff? What about the phones? What happened to all those cell phones Chloe bought just before the attacks? Were they damaged in the crash?

OK, maybe you weren’t thinking that. But Jerry Jenkins seems to think we all were, so he takes pains to reassure us:

[Buck] laid out the five deluxe universal cell phones Chloe had bought. Fortunately, they had been packed in spongy foam and had survived her accident.

Phew. Countless people are dead, but the phones are OK. Better than OK — they’re deluxe.

He had told her not to scrimp, and she certainly hadn’t. He didn’t even want to guess the total price, but these phones had everything, including the ability to take calls anywhere in the world, due to a built-in satellite chip.

After Loretta left for the church, Buck rummaged for batteries, then quickly taught himself the basics from the instruction manual and tried his first phone call.

The call is to his old friend Ken Ritz, the charter pilot we met back in the first book. He hires Ritz to fly him to Israel, because now that Bruce Barnes is dead, he needs to go pick up Tsion Ben-Bruce’s replacement.

If I were Buck, I wouldn’t buy a round-trip ticket. He should have moved to Israel 18 months ago.

Tim LaHaye’s premillennial dispensationalist “Bible prophecy” timeline is cobbled together mostly from the books of Daniel and Revelation. The two books are the same genre — they’re both apocalypses — but the PMD effort to mush them together into a single narrative doesn’t really work.

Granted, one imperial tyrant who sets himself up as God is pretty much the same as any other imperial tyrant who sets himself up as God, and Daniel and Revelation are both about life under such tyrants. But Daniel is about Israel struggling under the reign of one regional empire while Revelation is about the church struggling under the reign of a global (to them) empire. Treating these two different stories about two different communities under two different empires as all one big “prophecy” produces some strange results.

Thus we get LaHaye’s timeline, in which the Antichrist establishes a one-world government, ruling over all the world with an iron fist … except for Israel. Israel can’t be part of the Antichrist’s OWG because LaHaye’s prophecy also says that Israel has to make a peace treaty with the Antichrist. The signing of this treaty, LaHaye says, marks the beginning of the seven-year “Great Tribulation.”

LaHaye says that the Antichrist will break this treaty and betray Israel exactly half-way through those seven years, but he says until that betrayal, the treaty guarantees peace and prosperity for Israel. In other words, during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, places like Chicago will experience the tyranny of the Antichrist along with war, pestilence, famine, locusts, etc. But for those three and a half years, Israel is sitting pretty.

War may be riding forth on his red horse, but according to LaHaye’s timeline, he can’t ride forth on Israel yet — the only sovereign nation remaining in the world has got another couple of years still left on its treaty.

Buck shouldn’t be planning a quick trip to Israel, he should move there, for at least the next two years.


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  • ScorpioUndone

    Flip flip flip. Hmmm. Yeah, it says that’s what happened. But
    like so many things in these books, it both happened and also didn’t
    happen. It’s as though everything we just read in the previous chapters
    was all a dream.

    What if it *is* a dream? Or at the very least, like a flash forward in ‘Lost’? It’s like, “here’s what Buck is doing now, but this will happen in a few weeks or months or whatever. Alternatively, LB-verse could be like ‘Requiem for a Dream’: as the tribulation gets increasingly crazy, everyone’s sense of time and propriety just goes downhill. Chloe will up wearing an Oscar de la Renta evening dress when she gets beheaded.

  • Tricksterson

    Tad Williams take on Heaven is that the saved are eternally happy playing in the Elysian Fields but only because they’ve had most of their personalities and memories wiped away,  As a result Heaven comes off as better than Hell only by comparison.  Meanwhile the lower levels of angels definitely have personalities but are humans who have also had their memories wiped while their superiors use them to play Machiavellian games with both the forces of Hell and each other.  The constant refrain of “God loves you” as a greeting reminded me a lot of either “Heil Hitler” or “The Computer is your friend”