NRA: Winners and losers

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 113-116

The Antichrist’s personal plane is making good time, as Rayford Steele enjoys the sleep of the just, “snoring, according to McCullum, for several hours.”

Well, if not the sleep of the just, the deep sleep of one who just doesn’t care that he just stood by and did nothing to prevent the slaughter of millions.

About an hour outside Baghdad, Leon Fortunato entered the cockpit and knelt next to Rayford. “We’re not entirely sure of security in New Babylon,” he said. “No one expects us to land in Baghdad. Let’s keep maintaining with the New Babylon tower that we’re on the way directly there. When we pick up our other three ambassadors, we may just stay on the ground for a few hours until the security forces have had a chance to clear New Babylon.”

“Will that affect your meetings?” Rayford said, trying to sound casual.

“I don’t see how it concerns you one way or the other. We can easily meet on the plane. …”

You get the idea. Just in case you don’t, Jerry Jenkins spells it out in excruciating repetitive detail in the following pages. It’s a semi-plausible way of arranging to have Nicolae Carpathia’s strategy meeting with his top lieutenants take place on the plane — and thus to allow Rayford, and readers, to eavesdrop.

This chapter, then, spends three pages contriving a situation in which Rayford can listen in on a meeting that eventually takes about 10 pages to unfold. That makes this one of Jenkins’ most efficient chapters — throughout most of this series of books it’s more like a 1-to-1 ratio of positioning to narrative, spending just as many pages maneuvering his characters into a position to observe what happens next as he does allowing them to observe it.

Buck Williams, for example, is headed to Israel to meet with Tsion Ben-Judah. That’s the next actual bit of story he’ll be involved in, but rather than just telling us the story parts of the story, Jenkins keeps us apprised of every phone call and airport stop along the way.

Buck checked in with Donny Moore, who said he had found some incredible deals on individual components and was putting together the five mega-laptops himself. “That’ll save you a little money,” he said. “Just a little over $20,000 a piece, I figure.”

Maybe Donny is a good and trustworthy guy and he’s putting together some really amazing computers. Or maybe he just couldn’t resist when he found a customer who was willing to pay $100,000 for five really “special” laptops.

Buck told key people at Global Community Weekly his new universal cell phone number and asked that they keep it confidential …

I imagine those “key people” at the news organization were surprised to learn that Buck hadn’t been killed when World War III began a few days ago. This ongoing story is the biggest news since The Event itself, so when the boss never bothered to check in with his top editors and reporters, they had to assume he was either dead or trapped under something heavy.

Think of it: You’re the managing editor of a major news outlet. New York, London and Washington are all destroyed and you never hear from the boss. Chicago and Dallas and San Francisco are destroyed and the boss is still AWOL. And then, the following day, he calls — not to give orders or ask questions about how this huge story should be covered, and not to ask if everyone survived the series of nuclear attacks. No, he’s just calling to let you know he got a new cell phone, and to give you the number so you can call him if anything comes up.

Meanwhile, Rayford lands at the airport in Baghdad and Jenkins begins a laborious explanation of security ruses and arrangements for the meeting Nicolae will have with his lieutenants there on the airplane. This description is interspersed with a testy conversation between Rayford and Leon Fortunato. Fortunato tells Rayford they’ll be flying again in four hours.

“International aviation rules prohibit me from flying again for 24 hours.”

“Nonsense,” Fortunato said. “How do you feel?”


“Nevertheless, you’re the only one qualified to fly this plane, and you’ll be flying it when we say you’ll be flying it.”

This goes on for another half-page or so, the two men posturing and asserting competing claims for dominance. Rayford makes a point of calling the man by his first name.

“I would appreciate it if you would refer to me as Mr. Fortunato.”

“That means a lot to you, does it, Leon?”

“Don’t push me, Steele.”

As they entered the terminal, Rayford said, “As I am the only one who can fly that plane, I would appreciate it if you would call me Captain Steele.”

Fortunato here seems like kind of a jerk, but then he’s supposed to be the chief assistant to the Antichrist — the No. 2 guy and the right-hand man of the all-time epitome of evil. Just being kind of a jerk doesn’t quite seem evil enough.

Like Nicolae himself, Fortunato seems like an unpleasant person to be around, but unpleasant doesn’t really cut it when you’re supposed to be superlatively wicked.

The portrayal of villains is another place where storytelling and theology inevitably intersect. What is evil? What is sin? What is wickedness? Is it the opposite of good, or the absence of good? Could it be an excess of good? Does it lie more in its ends or in its means? Your ideas about all of those questions will shape how you portray your uber-villains.

Think of the movie Serenity, Joss Whedon’s delightful big-screen curtain call for his abruptly cancelled scifi TV series Firefly. Serenity gives us “Reavers” — sub-human, bestial nightmares of pure savagery and violent carnage. From one theological or philosophical perspective, Reavers might seem to be strong candidates for the epitome of evil — soulless monsters bent on mindless destruction.

But Whedon has always been more interested in soulful monsters and mindful destruction. The Reavers are terrifying, but — SPOILER ALERT — they’re not the true villains of Serenity. The real villains are those who created the Reavers, and who did so with the best of intentions. And therein lies a whole other philosophy or theology and a very different set of answers to those questions about the nature of evil.

The Left Behind series ought to have richly meaningful villains. Just look at that title — “Antichrist” — and consider all the myriad ways Nicolae Carpathia’s villainy might have been used to explore the nature and meaning of Christ by portraying his antithesis.

Nicolae could have been shown to epitomize power instead of love. He could have been shown as the kind of man who would say “Yes” to all the temptations Jesus is said to have rejected in the wilderness. He could have been portrayed as the one who chooses to take rather than to give, to harm rather than to heal, to kill rather than to die.

But we never see anything in these books about the Antichrist as the antithesis of the Christ of the Gospels. That part is already taken in this series by Jesus himself, the Jesus of Tim LaHaye’s imagined second coming who will arrive at the “Glorious Appearing” to correct all of his earlier mistakes by embodying the opposite of everything he taught and lived in his first coming. The Antichrist cannot be shown to be the opposite of this Christ because the Antichrist is exactly like this Christ.

This also means that Fortunato — the Antichrist’s chief disciple — cannot be portrayed as the antithesis of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Indeed, what we just saw in his conversation with such a disciple, Rayford Steele, is that Leon Fortunato is exactly like his Christian counterpart. He’s kind of a jerk in that conversation, but then so is Rayford. He’s arrogant and full of himself, but then so is Rayford.

The only difference between the two men is the same as the one thing that makes the Antichrist different from the vengeful Christ of LaHaye’s imagination: Fortunato is on the wrong side.

This seems to be the only thing the authors have to say about the nature of evil. It’s the wrong side. It’s the losing side.

So how, then, can we avoid evil? Easy — by always doing whatever we have to do to make sure our side wins.

That’s the author’s definition of good. For many other authors — including some of those in the Christian canon — that’s the definition of evil.


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  • tatortotcassie

    You know, based on the text provided, we only have Donny Moore’s word that “he had found some incredible deals on individual components” that would save Buck “Just a little over $20,000 a piece.”   If it were me, and I was in the middle of WWIII/End of Days and had to deal with Buck “The Bigger The Better” GIRAT, I might well jack up the price by a hundred fold apiece and claim to be giving Buck a discount because the douche certainly won’t know any better. 

    And then I’d take the overage and GTFO.  Like, head for the hills with a bunker full of supplies type of GTFO. 

  • Kadh2000

    I just went hunting for expensive laptops.  Up until about the $9000 mark, you get what you’d expect: a laptop with every feature maxed out as much as the manufacturer can max it out.   After that come the ones that jump in price. 

    For about $20,000 you can get a Ego by Bentley which isn’t all that powerful, but looks like a purse and comes with a Bentley logo.  Small diamond included.  Wealthy women appear to be the primary market for this one.

     For $350,000 you get the Tulip Ego Diamond.  This has all the features of the $9000 models.  Plus it has real diamonds and a designer cover that can be changed daily to match your outfit. 

    Next up is the $1.1M Luvaglio.  It has everything you want.  Incredible security, a diamond as the power button, self-cleaning screen, all the gizmos and gadgets a tech nut would want, and all the exclusivity a ridiculously wealthy person would want.

  • Trixie_Belden

    ZOMG.  When I first read your post, I swear, I thought maybe it was an inventive, playful spoof, then, just to be sure, I googled…and…I’m stunned.  Noe I’m thinking that for some upper income brackets perhaps we don’t just need Eisenhower era rates; perhaps it’s time for confiscatory taxation.

  • mcc

    “For about $20,000 you can get a Ego by Bentley which isn’t all that powerful, but looks like a purse”
    …I guess I’m not ashamed to admit that my immediate responses are (1) where can I find a picture of this, (2) does something like this exist at a reasonable price point and (3) can it run Linux?

    * googles *

    …I’m conflicted.

  • Mrs Grimble


    Next up is the $1.1M Luvaglio.  It has everything you want.  Incredible
    security, a diamond as the power button, self-cleaning screen, all the
    gizmos and gadgets a tech nut would want, and all the exclusivity a
    ridiculously wealthy person would want.

    And it never actually existed.  The company didn’t even produce a prototype let alone a working machine, and the solid-state drive specifications were apparently technically impossible at that time (2007).  The website is still there, with lots of pictures of some frankly ugly laptops, but no information; it’s never even been updated.
    Sounds just the thing for Buck and the Tribbles!

  • Kiba

    Ok, that’s a really shitty tattoo in that picture.

    Also, I can’t watch Serenity and see Chiwetel Ejiofor (the man who plays The Operative) without picturing him as Lola in Kinky Boots (which I saw before I saw Serentity). It kind of takes the edge off when you keep picturing The Operative as drag queen. 

    five mega-laptops

    OMG YOU GUYZ!!! It’s the most superawesomesttotallybetterthananythingeverbestest computer in the world!!! With my superdupermagicaluniversial cell phone I’m like the most awesomely cool person ever! Jealous?

    Seriously, mega-laptops? Essh. Why do I get the feeling the authors weren’t popular in school and probably got stuffed into lockers?

  • Jamoche

    “And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.
    As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up” – Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

  • Ken

    More Pratchett on the same topic – can’t find it offhand, but it’s Granny Weatherwax.  “Sin is when you treat people like things. It gets more complicated, but that’s where it starts.”

  • P J Evans

    John Brunner said something similar in Shockwave Rider. Only he used the word ‘evil’.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    More Pratchett on the same topic – can’t find it offhand, but it’s Granny Weatherwax. “Sin is when you treat people like things. It gets more complicated, but that’s where it starts.”

    He was cribbing Kant there.

  • johnm55

     The one thing that puzzles me is, why doesn’t Rayford  just fly the thing into the side of a mountain, after all he’s going to heaven isn’t he?

  • Bificommander

    I seem to remember we theorized about Rayford always being called ‘Captain Steele’, even when he wasn’t flying, because he’s a narcistic jackass who insisted to be called such off-screen. I think this has just been confirmed. Right after he chides Leon for his ego, with the only evidence that he insists being called by his last name, he goes “well then, I have an even bigger ego, cause I demand to be called by my last name AND title.”

    And he still calls him by his first name when demanding it, because this is a cock-fight. Between a pilot who identified himself as the Anti Christ’s enemy during his interview, and the second-in-command to said all-powerful dictator. Why isn’t Rayford dead yet? Execute him as an example to his copilot to show what happens when you talk back to the boss.

  • FearlessSon

    I seem to remember we theorized about Rayford always being called ‘Captain Steele’, even when he wasn’t flying, because he’s a narcistic jackass who insisted to be called such off-screen.

    And now I am picturing Rayford in a Bibleman-esque outfit, striking poses as “Captain Steele”.  

    “And these”, he said as he held up his hands, “aren’t the Steele!”  

  • Randy Owens

    “Steele is a dick.  Wait, that’s not what I meant!”

  • car

    I think the computer price situation is even worse – that line reads to me that their great computer guru has managed to SAVE them 20k per laptop. That means the original price is quite a lot higher than 20k and even that the final price is still quite a lot higher than that. If 20k were even half the cost of each laptop, he would have said he managed to cut the price in half. Using a number instead of a percentage usually means the percentage isn’t that high and you’re supposed to focus on how big that number is and not realize what a small fraction of the total it represents.

  • Donalbain

    There is no such thing as “money that the government doesn’t have”. The government controls the supply of money.

  • KevinC

    It just never ceases to amaze me how fractally awful these books are.  “Mega-laptops” is just fingernails-on-chalkboard bad.  First of all: the main feature of laptops is that they’re compact.  So, even on the level of the utterly ignorant, “mega” is a horrible descriptor.  Why not “sleek” or “thin” or “light?”  I’m guessing that all the travel logistics and phone calls and whatnot are there because Ellenjay are trying to write techno-thrillers.  The thing about techno-thrillers though, is that the genre requires that the author know something about the relevant technologies, in the same way and for the same reason that a romance requires an author who knows something about people being attracted to one another. 

    Say what you will about Tom Clancy, at least when you read Red Storm Rising or The Hunt for Red October, by the time you turn the last page, you feel like you’ve learned something about submarines or what a conventional war between the United States and the Soviet Union would be (well, “have been,” now) like.*  For all I know, Clancy committed dozens of howlers in those books, but at least he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.  When he makes reference to a helicopter or a submarine or a fighter jet’s missile, he knows its names.  He can actually describe why an AMRAAM missile is very good at what it does.  And what “AMRAAM” stands for. 

    Of course, Ellenjay don’t know anything about any interesting technologies, and they didn’t even want to bother rooting through other people’s techno-thrillers in the dollar bin at the thrift store to at least get some (semi-) accurate jargon.  Or go to the library and flip through a few back issues of Popular Mechanics.  Or even–since these novels are supposed to be set in the near-ish future–make something up

    “Hey Buck, check out these new Instar G16 ruggedized secure laptops I got for you!  EMP shielded, impact-proof, 5016-bit encryption, scrambled tight-beam machine-to-machine microwave transmission with a five kilometer range.  The transmission can’t be intercepted unless the hostile is between the computers on a line-of-sight, and if that happens, the hostile receiver degrades the signal, and triggers a warning.  The screens are diffraction image.  Here, watch this,” Donny said, opening one of the machines in front of Buck and booting it up.  “Now back away.”

    “Wha–!” Buck said, when the desktop background went black.

    “Cool, huh?  See, these screens project their image as an interference pattern.  Get a couple feet too far away, and the pattern breaks up.  That way, nobody can see what’s on your screen unless they’re physically looking right over your shoulder.”

    Etc.  Now, all of that was just pulled straight out of my posterior, and any real computer/security/spy tech guru would probably laugh her/his head off.  But…sounds better than “mega-laptop” doesn’t it?  Plus, the various capabilities are there to be used for future plot points.

    Another thing about techno-thrillers: it’s the exotic, unusual, and/or military-grade tech that makes them cool.  The author’s “knowledge” (real or otherwise) about such things opens a door into a more exciting world than the reader inhabits.  But, Our Hack Authors don’t know, or care to know, about any sort of interesting technology.  So instead of giving us a chance to vicariously play with fighter jets or submarines or a Navy SEAL’s arsenal of firearms, they give us…telephones, cars, and airports.  Stuff most of us use in our own mundane little lives.

    What’s even more mind-boggling is that Ellenjay didn’t have to invent any of the genres their books use.  Antichrist supernatural horror-powers?  Read Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft.  What’s nuclear warfare like?  Watch The Day After or Testament.  Modern weapons systems, war, the White House, etc.?  Tom Clancy.  The Antichrist’s totalitarian regime?  Read 1984, The Hiding Place, or Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and just update the atmosphere with modern tech.  And so on.  Even if they’d just produced second-rate derivative work by filing the serial numbers off of the work of others, they’d have improved the LB Series by orders of magnitude.  Not.   Enough.  Facepalms.

    *When I was in high school, I got an A on a report for my physics class, about the use of sonar in submarine warfare–based wholly on the descriptions in Red Storm Rising.   

  • Jenny Islander

    Yeah, Clancy goes overboard with the tech specs sometimes, but then there’s bits like “Numbers mileage airspeed transmission power infodumpage infodumpage and that’s why the guy with the glasses was sitting at a cluttered desk with an aviator’s scarf and a gloating grin, piloting a UAV that was going to put all those smug Air Force aces right out of business.  He considered whether it would be too tacky to put kill symbols on his e-mail .sig, then decided what the hell, why not?”

    Back to L&J: Well, first of all, they’re at the top of the heap: a white American fundamentalist Christian preacher and his adjutant.  So why should they think they don’t know it all?  And if they actually admit to not knowing everything, where can they turn?  Nonfiction references are all so worldly and tend to present the unpleasant idea that RTCs really haven’t mattered much in, well, anything.  Fiction is either sinful or written by people with the same mindset.  Imagination leads to something or other that is bad (Satanism? can’t remember).  So all they have left is handwaving.

  • P J Evans

     The earlier novels, where the editors weren’t afraid to cut out stuff, were better. I think Red October and Red Storm Rising are worth reading; the rest are just him creating bigger disasters for Ryan to deal with.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Yeah, but they don’t read any of those books.  Because they’re Not Of The Body, you see, and reading stuff with gray areas might lead to confusion and all this messy questioning and careful reflection and we can’t have that sort of thing, can we?  And besides, all that stuff just gets in the way of Getting The Message Out that This Could All Happen Tomorrow.  The entire series’ appeal is based on a combination of material enticement combined with a healthy dose of revenge fantasy, and in any event, because the authors are narcissistic hacks, they actually think that they know everything that they need to know.  The idea that they might have to go to the effort of conducting some actual research is completely alien to them. 

  • FearlessSon

     in any event, because the authors are narcissistic hacks, they actually think that they know everything that they need to know.

    This reminds me, the most empowering thought I sometimes have is, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”  

  • PurpleAardvaark

    “Is it the opposite of good, or the absence of good”

    Until recently, I had not found a more graphic illustration of this then the one Lewis used in Perelandra. The mindless creation of suffering and the unending string of tortured frogs done for no other purpose.  Then Wayne LaPierre and the other NRA clowns began to speak.

  • MaryKaye

    While raising a mentally ill child I have three times had the experience of a medical professional saying to me, “The medically indicated thing to do is X, but insurance will not cover it, so I am going to do Y instead.”  (Two of those times, Y was “send him home without treatment.”)

    We have some pretty excellent mental health professionals around here, but they are not doing a good job, because they can’t unless their client is rich. 

    The worst one was, “We are going to institutionalize your child and try  intensive therapy.  We need six months, but insurance will only authorize 1-2 weeks at a time.  So there are treatments we can’t use as they’re no good if interrupted in the middle and we can never tell when insurance will pull the plug.  I’m sorry.”  Watching what they actually did, it was very clear that it wasn’t the right stuff to be doing, but they had to be prepared for the plug-pull–which came after 7 weeks plus three days I paid for myself.

    This isn’t even economically efficient–if 6 months would have worked but 7 weeks wouldn’t, you’ve just spent $22,000 for *nothing*.  Just like emergency room care is a terribly inefficient way to treat most illnesses.  Rational health care would not only be humane, it would be cheaper and work better.

    (Thank the gods, 7 weeks did apparently do some good.  But I am still bitter about the whole experience.)

  • KevinC

    These books attempt to incorporate a number of genres (action-adventure, techno-thriller, conspiracy thriller, apocalypse/post-apocalypse, disaster, near-future science fiction), but do so with a bizarre clunky unfamiliarity with all of them.  If Ellenjay loved any of those genres, they would have read enough in it to know what good writing for that genre was, or at the very least what their inadequacies in writing it were, and to some degree at least, what they’d need to do to fix it.  We would see story quality improve noticeably when they hit, say, the disaster-porn parts, because their love for that genre would shine through.  But no!  They write as if, when their publisher came to them and suggested writing a novel about the Rapture, they said, “Tell us, what is this ‘novel’ thing of which you speak?”

    It’s as if the LB Series was written by a space-alien fourth grader after hir class completed the chapter on humans in their Xenology textbook, and was given an assignment to write a story from a human point of view. 

    “So, E’l’ennjae, what are each-and-both of you going to write about?” 

    “I-and-we are going to write one of their alien-invasion stories–but it will be an invasion by one of their own deities!”

    “Oh, what a wonderful idea E’l’ennjae!” the instructor/-s said, forming a pseudopod to pat the little joined-child/-ren behind their eyestalks.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    I wish there were a “godlike” button I could click here, and I can’t push the “like” button more than once.  Dammit.

  • Lori

      And prepare to file bankruptcy, if anything serious goes wrong. 

    And don’t even ask about the rules on filing bankruptcy.

  • Lliira

    Thank you, everyone, for taking on that… what it was. I’ve gotten to the point where I cannot do it any longer myself. When someone is yelling at me that I am a horrible person for not wanting to be in terrible pain any longer, for wanting to be able to live a real life, and saying they want me to continue being in terrible pain, and it was my fault anyway — I’ve had it, I can’t deal with it any more, I’ve dealt with it too much.

    Appointment with a neurosurgeon in 5 days! Largely thanks to many of you.

  • EllieMurasaki


  • P J Evans

     Good luck!

  • Lori


    Appointment with a neurosurgeon in 5 days!   

    Good luck! I hope the appointment brings good news and progress for you.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    *confetti and cheers* Best of luck and may your neurosurgeon be able to help!

  • Sue White

    No, no, you’re not a horrible person, you’re just *greedy*.  (I can’t believe he actually said that.)

  • Lliira

    Yeah, I just have no idea what to do when people argue that. I can’t wait to have someone make incisions in my spine and replace pieces of my body with metal, and go through months (at least) of painful physical therapy afterward! It’s like Disney World! And then hopefully be able to get a job and work for a salary, from which I will pay taxes! Greedy, greedy me, not wanting to be in constant pain and on painkillers that mess with my mind and damage my kidneys. So selfish I am for wanting to be able to shower every day and bend over and pick things up when I drop them. So self-centered, antisocial, and self-absorbed for wanting to be able to cook dinner for my husband again, and not have to ask him to do every single bloody thing for me.

    Oh look I guess I had some pent up ability to deal with it after all.

  • Sue White

    Apparently I’m greedy for wanting all that for you.

  • KevinC

     Ouch.  ‘End Zone victory dance’ (as I mentioned in my previous post in reply to you) was a rather poor choice of words.  But please–gloat all you want.  Set off fireworks.  Whatever.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Best of luck!  I hope the appointment goes well!

  • KevinC

     Lliira, given how many of these right-wing wackaloons are gloating over the murder of little children (and just about any other terrible thing that happens), claiming that They Told Us So, that if only this whole country was thoroughly branded with their tribal markers at all times, that things like school shootings and 9/11 wouldn’t have to happen–well, fuck ’em. 

    As far as I’m concerned, you’re fully entitled to the cockiest, showboating-est End Zone victory dance you can possibly perform at least once per day for as long as the Frankenstein spawn of Ayn Rand and Jerry Falwell continue to lose elections.  Which will hopefully be a very, very long time.  I am also glad that my government is at least doing something for you, though I wish you had access to a single-payer system, like the citizens of every other developed country. 

    Hey right-wingers:  You.  Lost.  Deal with it.  But hey, if you ever feel like deciding to be members of a civilization, you’re always welcome to join the winning side.  As for me, I’m going to gloat now, because my civilization can do things like help Lliira be free of terrible pain and land rovers on Mars.

  • Kiba

    Appointment with a neurosurgeon in 5 days!

    Good luck! I’m very glad you are able to finally get the medical help you need. 

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    Best of luck. We all hope the results will be good.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Thorstein Veblen wrote “Theory of the Leisure Class”. I believe it was this work that popularized the term “conspicuous consumption” – that is, the portrayal of high wealth by means of purchases of artificially expensive items.

    Incidentally, this flies directly in the face of the forever utility-maximizing Homo Economicus. Some economists have attempted to work this into economics, but in general economics as presented by Republicans tends to ignore sociological observations that the visible manifestations of social status are important to humans.

    Homo Economicus is the perfect miser – someone who has $$$$$ and does nothing to distinguish their lifestyle from the poorest person that ever lived.

    For all that such behavior is the proper utility-maximizing thing to do, I think even right-wing economists would be willing to concede that upon meeting such a person, they would meet such a crabbed and miserable spirit as to wonder at whether there were any humanity in them at all.

  • Jenny Islander

    You know, I didn’t even bother mentioning it before because the decision is just so commonplace: I have a hole in one of my teeth right now because a filling fell out.  It doesn’t hurt; the filling was for wear due to overbrushing, so it isn’t deep.  But nevertheless, I have a hole in my tooth.  Does the insurance policy provided by my husband’s employer of 25 years cover dental care for him or his dependents?  Yeah, exams, a cleaning, maybe a third of one filling.  Do my husband and I have money to cover the difference?  Back before we decided to have children, we could manage it.  I dress the kids in hand-me-downs and feed them a lot of the same thing over and over and we still can’t manage it.  It’s been several months, now, with this hole in my tooth; I have wavered between the danger of brushing it too hard and going into the pain zone or not brushing and getting more decay and going into the pain zone anyway.  In February, assuming that something financially drastic doesn’t happen before then, I’ll be able to get it filled.

    Get this: The dentist told me that my two oldest children have naturally wrinkly molars; the painstaking dental regimen we taught them left them with multiple cavities back there that we could not have prevented.

    We heard about it back in October.

    Sometime in May, if something doesn’t happen to eat up that money first, we’ll be able to get those filled.  Or maybe not.  Maybe we’ll have to hope that the decay doesn’t spread from their baby molars to their adult teeth before the baby teeth fall out.

    The one bit of good news is that the recent tax thing has reduced my husband’s take-home pay, even after his recent raise, sufficiently that we may actually qualify for state-financed medical and dental insurance that will cover our children (only).  We have for years lived in the broad gray zone between “can actually afford the care that doctors and dentists and such tell us we are supposed to get” and “can get help paying for it.”

  • Akili

    I’d like to think that inflation has gone way up in the wake of most of liberal America being blown to bits. Last week the computers would have cost a lot less, but thanks to our ‘hero’s’ not warning anyone about the bombs, now they have to pay through the nose for their shiny new laptops.

  • tatortotcassie

    Aaaand we now have confirmation from the lips of Jerry Jenkins himself that the LB series is essentially violence-porn.  When asked which scenes are his favorites, Jenkins says:

    The martyrdom scenes in The Mark are other favorites


  • aunursa

    Jerry Jenkins’ most absolute favorite scene, where he even amazes himself, occurs later in Nicolae during the chaotic bus ride to Egypt.  I’ll point it out when we get there.

    I was moved while writing that, just as I hope readers were when reading that scene. It was a wonderful, serendipitous surprise.

  • Lori

    I should no longer be surprised by the not very subtle ways that Jenkins tries to create the impression that these (wretched) books are inspired by the Almighty and not written in the usual way, but I still am. If there was a God I’m pretty sure he would have giving ol’ Jerry a good smiting by now for being arrogant and for trying to fob off responsibility for this dreck.

  • Leum

    I actually think it might have been “pinking shears” in the story. But
    that makes absolutely no flipping sense since no one in their right mind
    would try to give someone a haircut with pinking shears.

    Fairly sure it was the buzzer things they use to trim around the ages and give buzzcuts with.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That scene in Egypt? Jenkins must mean the total Deus Ex Machina he crapped out when Tsion Ben Judah was spotted by that Egyptian soldier.

  • aunursa

    Yep.  He likes it even more than the arbitrary Deus Ex Machina scenes in Book #9, Book #10, and Book #12.

  • chris the cynic

    Skewed Slightly to the Left, we last saw Rayford under armed guard in one of the lavish sleeping rooms aboard GC-1 curling up into a ball and wishing oblivion would take him.

    “Wake up fuckface,” I voice said more loudly than Rayford would have liked and full of more disdain than he was accustomed to.

    Rayford had to blink twice to get his eyes to focus but when he did he saw the speaker and tried to respond as cheerfully as he could because he figured that was more likely to annoy than confrontation, “Leon!”

    “Mr. Fortunato,” the man corrected sharply.

    “What brings you to grace me with your most excellent company?”

    “Do you honestly think that being chipper is going to somehow give you the upper hand?”

    Rayford dropped any hint of his fake mood and said, “So spit it out asshole.”

    “This plane will be touching down in Baghdad soon to pick up some guests, then we’ll make the last leg of our journey to New Babylon once we are certain of the security there.

    “You will be flying at that time.”

    Rayford looked at the four armed guards, the ones he had hoped would kill him in his sleep, then back to Leon Fortunato.  Silence filled the room as the two men looked at each other, “Yeah, because that makes so much sense.”

    “You think you’ll be able to defy Carpathia?”

    “Put me back in the cockpit.  I dare you.”

    “He said you’d say that.  That’s why I’m here.  To let you get your hopes high before He explains to you exactly why you will carry out every order He ever gives.  Let them soar, convince yourself that you can resist, but when you realize your wings are made of wax and you come crashing down into the surf, when what’s left of them becomes soaked and pulls you under no matter how hard you try to keep your head above water, remember this:

    “I told you so.”

    Mr. Leon Fortunato left Rayford with the four armed guards, and in spite of his words Rayford was was convinced that if he were put at the plane’s controls it would mean death for all on board.  This time he wouldn’t wait.  This time he would do what he should have done.  No matter the cost.  He’d sell his soul to get the blood already on his hands off of them, he’d die before he took part in anything to add to that blood with more innocents he could have saved.  That was what he told himself.

    Then, Carpathia came.

    “Our friend Mr. Fortunato has explained the situation to you?”

    “Yes and I’m completely ready to be your faithful lapdog yet again.”  Carpathia was good at reading people, he’d know if Rayford were playing along so he could crash the plane, so Rayford saw no need to make his lies compelling or his contempt anything other than transparent.

    “Oh, but you are.”

    “If you think that I’m going to work for you-”

    “You will.”


    “Tell me, what do you think about your son,” Nicolae let a pause rest there just long enough for Rayford to experience grief for his only son, taken in the Rapture, “in law?”

    “I… uh… what?!”

    “Do you think he’d place principle first?  Do you think he’d refuse to work for me no matter what?  Because if he would then you have every reason to turn me down.

    “You see I plan to make him the same offer I’m about to make you, and if he doesn’t take it… well… I’m sure you can work it out for yourself.

    “You can come back to work for me, and be completely loyal in word and deed.  Or I can rip everything that you love out of your life, right in front of you.  Your daughter, assuming she’s still alive, dead.  Your church will be burned to the ground, and then have all of the underground portions burned, with the entire congregation inside of it.  Any who manage to escape will be executed by machine guns.

    “Your friends from work, your old work, will be tracked down and executed.  Your friends from this job too, and you know I know who they are because you know about my surveillance archives.  I know because you erased the part where your wife let you in on the cities to be bombed* and you warned your son in law.

    “Hattie as well, even if she does please me from time to time.

    “And your wife will naturally be shot in the head.  Not at first, you understand.  We’ll probably shoot her in one foot, then the other, chop off her left hand, then the right, poke out her eyes, then take her nose-”

    “And then her tongue, I suppose,” Rayford said morbidly.

    “Exactly!” Nicolae said excitedly.  “To the pain, but she will not live a long life wallowing in freakish misery because then you would have hope that, somehow, you might comfort her.  And that we can’t have.  So once we’ve extracted as much pain as we can from her, we shoot her.

    “In front of you, of course.

    “After that we’ll probably go have people you just randomly happened to meet.  How does your entire second grade class sound?  Bet you don’t even know their names, but we’ll make sure you get to watch their deaths.

    “And you, you’ll get to live.  A rich and happy life.  At least that’s how it will look from the outside, every need taken care of, every amenity provided for, and so much leisure time you won’t be able to help but think about all of the deaths we’ve made you watch.

    “And when I do run out of people with some connection to you, I’ll start making things up.  Say people who have the same name as your daughter.  I’ll bring one in, introduce you to her, let you know about her life, her hopes and dreams, her loves and likes, the people she cares about and the people who care about her, and then I’ll kill her in front of you.

    “Once I run out of people with that name it’ll be your second-born, Raymie I believe his name was.  Not the most common name, I think.  So I’ll find people the same age he would be, or as close as I can manage, with the same interests, introduce you to the young men, let you get a good feel for them, and then kill them, slowly, in front of you.

    “Every day.  Day after day.  Forever.”

    There was silence.

    “And lest you think that you can avoid this fate by coming back to work for me and then crashing the plane, rest assured that the orders have already been given out.  If anything should happen to this plane, everyone and everything you ever cared about dies.

    “Slow, agonizing deaths.

    “So make sure to do your pre-flight checks completely right every time.  And if you should ever have any doubts about the plane’s maintenance you get the problem solved, because the life of everyone you ever cared about hangs in the balance.”

    Rayford hadn’t moved a single muscle, save his heart which was beating erratically, since Nicolae got to the part where he mentioned second grade.  Even if he could move it was unclear what he might do.  His eyes couldn’t open any wider, the look of horror on his face couldn’t be any more pronounced.

    Breathing might be nice, but he’d forgotten about that though his lungs were beginning to burn.

    “I expect you to be in the cockpit by the time our guests from Baghdad board.”

    Nicolae turned and walked toward the door.  He opened it, then he turned back to Rayford.  “Mr. Fortunato asked me to remind you: he told you so.”  Nicolae addressed the guards, “You’re no longer needed here.  Can I interest you in drinks in the lounge?”

    Nicolae held the door open for the four guards, then closed it, leaving Rayford in the room alone.

    At that point Rayford’s oxygen deprived lungs finally overrode his brain, and his horror along with it, and forced a sharp intake of breath.  More gasping followed.

    Rayford didn’t know what the asking price would be on his soul, but he knew that Nicolae had bought it.  He would be the Antichrist’s lapdog.  He would make sure the plane never crashed.

    And he would pray that someone would shoot the bastard, provided they did it on the ground.

    * Actually, he erased the part where Amanda tried to let him in on it and he told her he already knew.  Nicolae is well aware that the plane is bugged, he ordered it to be, but his lack of mind reading means that he doesn’t know Rayford has access to it beyond being able to break it.  (The files are encrypted, deleting them is much easier than listening to them.  Also I’m assuming Rayford did it in a way to make it look like an accident, power surge took out the hard drives or whatever.)

  • aunursa

    Wow!  Now that’s a villain.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    D: holy craaaaaaaaap.

  • Matri

    holy craaaaaaaaap.

    That was exactly what was going through my head. Now THAT is a villain who has been taking Evil Overlord lessons!

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Aaaaaaand, THAT’S how the most evil human being in the history of mankind should be written. 

    I wish I could  grab the Chuckle Brothers by the scruff of their necks and shove their faces into the monitor while saying, “See?  See?  THIS IS WHAT GENUINE PURE EVIL REALLY LOOKS LIKE.”

  • Münchner Kindl

     Awesome. That’s how you write an evil villain, an effective villain and a way to get loyalty the old-fashioned way without supernatural mind whammys.

  • Splitting Image

    Terrific! As everyone else has said, “THAT is how you write a villain.”

    Also, props for the “To the Pain” reference. People have listed a lot of fictional characters who made better villains than Nicolae Carpathia, but it’s disconcerting to realize that Dread Pirate Westley is one of them.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    As counterintuitive as it sounds to say this, sometimes just going along
    with basic norms of social conformity can lubricate the path to an
    easier time for your child. – Invisible Neutrino

    I don’t know that it’s counterintuitive at all, for children or adults. If the group can easily categorize someone as “weird abnormal outsider” on superficial criteria, they’ll dismiss any substantive disagreements that the designated outsider has with local custom – they probably won’t even really hear the outsider’s arguments. But someone who has enough social credit to pass, superficially, as a “normal person” has at least a chance of being listened to when they explain why they won’t eat meat (to use an example from somewhere upthread); and being listened to is the first step in persuading other people to change their own habits.

  • MuseofIre

    Homo Economicus is the perfect miser – someone who has $$$$$ and does nothing to distinguish their lifestyle from the poorest person that ever lived.
    For all that such behavior is the proper utility-maximizing thing to do, I think even right-wing economists would be willing to concede that upon meeting such a person, they would meet such a crabbed and miserable spirit as to wonder at whether there were any humanity in them at all.

    The thing is, we’ve all already met such a person, in literature. His name is Ebenezer Scrooge.