NRA: Mojo rising

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; Chapter 6

Our Antichrist is busy getting all Antichrist-y in this chapter, but does he know that’s what he’s doing?

On the one hand, our story so far has often suggested that Nicolae Carpathia must know that he is the Antichrist of Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” mythos. Much of his behavior only makes sense if he knows this — if he has studied the footnotes of the Scofield Bible and the premillennial dispensationalist writings of people like LaHaye and Hal Lindsey. He has been following their End Times check list too precisely to accept that he is not intimately familiar with it.

A “literal” reading of the Bible never says that the Antichrist will have hypnotic super-powers. But then, of course, a literal reading of the Bible never mentions “the Antichrist.”

Just consider the city of New Babylon. Nicolae spent much of his first year and a half in office building this gleaming new world capital in the middle of the desert just so that he could claim to have rebuilt ancient Babylon. That’s something no one would ever imagine or attempt unless he was intent on establishing himself as the very particular sort of Antichrist imagined by a very particular school of “Bible prophecy.”

The building of this city is too weird and too specific for any possibility other than that Nicolae has a dog-eared copy of The Late Great Planet Earth that he’s using as a daily planner. It shows he knows himself to be the Antichrist — and not just some generic Antichrist type, but explicitly the PMD Antichrist. It is only in that particular school of End Times mania that anyone reads biblical allusions to Babylon as prophecies of the rebuilding of Nebuchadnezzar’s literal kingdom on its original site. (This is just one of many ways that any random reggae musician is a more reliable biblical exegete than Tim LaHaye.)

On the other hand, our story has also often suggested that Nicolae Carpathia cannot know that he is the Antichrist. It seems that for every action he takes that only makes sense if he’s studying LaHaye’s check list, he takes another action that only makes sense if he is completely ignorant of these “prophecies” and what they say is coming next.

It won’t help us to sort this out by skipping ahead to later volumes or to the prequels, where the authors imagine they settle this question. The story so far is too firmly committed to both answers for the contradiction to be resolved that way. Based on his actions and his agenda thus far, Nicolae has to know that he is the Antichrist. And based on his actions and his agenda thus far, Nicolae cannot know that he is the Antichrist.*

In this chapter, during his business meeting with his “sovereign” underlings, Nicolae again suggests both contradictory answers. He shrugs off the significance of Tsion Ben-Judah, seeming as though he’s never heard of the army of Jewish converts LaHaye’s prophecy check list foretells. And he lays out a long-term political agenda with plans for infrastructure and energy investment that he would never bother with if he knew he was the Antichrist and had only five and a half years remaining before Armageddon. Yet this chapter also gives us one of the most explicit scenes yet of Nicolae employing his Antichrist superpowers with a deliberateness that would seem impossible unless he knew, with certainty, exactly who he was and what his role was in the unfolding prophetic check list.

Here, again, Nicolae wields the mind-control mojo** he used back in the anticlimax to the first book. This time Jerry Jenkins tries to give us a clearer picture of how these mind-control powers work. In doing so, he shows Nicolae enjoying the use of his powers and employing them in a way that only makes sense if he knows he is the Antichrist.

Rayford Steele, eavesdropping on this meeting, gets a case of the sanctified shivers in the presence of this display of the dark arts:

Rayford felt a tingle up his spine and nearly turned, convinced someone was standing right outside the cockpit door. Finally the feeling became so foreboding and pervasive that he whipped off his headphones and stood, leaning to peek through the fish-eye peephole. No one was there. Was God trying to tell him something? He was reminded of the same sense of fear that had overcome him when Buck had told his terrifying story of sitting through a meeting where Carpathia had single-handedly hypnotized and brainwashed everyone in the room except Buck.

That last sentence is clumsy, but when you’re trying to have one protagonist remember the feelings of the other one it’s hard to write clearly.

Only born-again Christians like Rayford and Buck feel this ominous sense of evil when Nicolae works his magic. And having their spiritual amulet of protection, such Christians are shielded from the effects of the spell. I’m not sure whether or not Nicolae knows this about his mind-control powers, but if he does, then that effectively gives him another super ability — the ability to detect born-again Christians.

Rayford sat back in his seat and put the headphones on. When he depressed the intercom button, it was as if he were hearing a new Carpathia. Nicolae spoke very softly, very earnestly, in a monotone. None of the flourishes and inflections that usually characterized his speech were evident. “I want to tell you all something, and I want you to listen very carefully and understand fully. …”

I’m trying to imagine what an earnest monotone sounds like, but I suppose what Jenkins is going for here is your standard B-movie hypnotist spiel, so I’m guessing Nicolae is speaking here in the same kind of voice in which one would say, “You are getting sleepy … sleeeeepy.”

Still speaking like a sideshow hypnotist, Nicolae describes his plan:

“Within the next few months we shall all announce unanimous decisions allowing us to control business, education, health care, and even the way your individual kingdoms choose their leaders. The fact is, democracy and voting will be suspended. They are inefficient and not in the best interests of the people. Because of what we will provide people, they will quickly understand that this is correct. Each of you can go back to your subjects and honestly tell them that this was your idea, you raised it, you sought support of your colleagues and me for it, and you prevailed. I will publicly reluctantly accede to your wishes, and we will all win.”

After all the murky tax and energy discussion, it’s refreshing to hear the embodiment of evil endorsing something more unambiguously wicked — and I think the abolition of “democracy and voting” certainly counts as truly evil. But I can’t figure out why Nicolae, or the authors, thinks this is a new step at this point in the story.

The 10 men Nicolae is talking to here were appointed by the potentate to rule over their “kingdoms.” They were not elected and they did not face the prospect of needing to be re-elected. They have, for more than a year, been accountable only to the potentate above them and not at all to their “subjects” below them.

So I have no idea what it means now for the Antichrist to “suspend” democracy and voting. He did that 18 months ago. Democracy and voting haven’t been part of this story since all the children disappeared. And he isn’t proposing any change in the way the “individual kingdoms choose their leaders” — he already did that when he chose their leaders for them.

No one says anything at first in response to Nicolae’s suggestion, but it’s not because they’re confused by the suspension of non-existent democracy. It’s only because his mind-control mojo apparently takes a moment to take effect:

Rayford listened to a long silence, wondering if his bugging device was malfunctioning. He released and depressed it several times, finally deciding that no one was saying anything in the conference area. So this was the mind control Buck had witnessed firsthand.

Eventually, the mojo-ified princes all begin suggesting back to Nicolae the same policies he just fed them. They begin “talking over each other” and “parroting back to him” the instructions he had given them.

“The meeting lasted another couple of hours,” Jenkins tells us. I’m grateful he opted to summarize most of that. We don’t hear any more of Nicolae’s specific evil plans until one last final spasm at the end of the chapter, in which the authors pull out the big guns and have the Antichrist endorse the mostest-evilest thing they can imagine: legal abortion.

“We cannot pretend that the world as we know it has not been almost destroyed by this outbreak of global war. It is not over yet. There will be more skirmishes. …”

Raining nuclear bombs on major cities isn’t usually described as a “skirmish.” But enough about nuclear mass-murder, what about the really evil stuff? What about abortion?

“There will be more surreptitious attacks. We will have to reluctantly access our power base of weaponry, which you all know I am loath to do, and many more thousands of lives will be lost in addition to the hundreds of thousands already taken. …”

The authors seem to regard Nicolae’s estimate there of “hundreds of thousands” of dead as roughly accurate. This is after he has destroyed (at least) the cities of London, Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto and San Francisco with nuclear weapons — metropolitan areas that are home to more than 40 million people.

Once again, population estimates don’t seem to be the authors’ strong suit, which is why they have their Antichrist fretting about the supposed strain of post-Rapture, post-nuclear overpopulation. A problem he proposes solving with lots and lots of — yep, here it is — abortions:

“Those who would oppose us will take advantage of the impossibility of our peacekeeping forces to be everywhere at once, and this will result in famine, poverty, and disease. In one way, there is a positive side to this. Due to the incredible cost of rebuilding, the fewer people we must feed and whose standard of living we must raise, the more quickly and economically we can do this. As the population level decreases and then stabilizes, it will be important for us to be sure that it does not then explode again too quickly. With proper legislation regarding abortion, assisted suicide, and the reduction of expensive care for the defective and the handicapped, we should be able to get a handle on worldwide population control.”

Here again a reminder: Every child on Earth disappeared in the Rapture. Every parent left behind became immediately childless. Every mother lost her every son and every daughter. Every father lost his every child. Every grandparent lost all of their grandchildren. Every aunt and uncle lost every niece and nephew.

This has had no effect on the plot of this story. This has had no effect on the characters in this story.

The Event didn’t just take away every child, but every pregnancy, with every pregnant woman on the planet instantaneously becoming un-pregnant at the moment of the Rapture. The authors drew particular attention to that aspect of the Event back in Book 1 — describing a video from a hospital maternity ward that captured the moment on tape:

Then came the scream and the dropping of the camera, terrified voices, running nurses, and the doctor. CNN reran the footage in superslow motion, showing the woman going from very pregnant to nearly flat-stomached, as if she had instantaneously delivered.

And yet never, in the hundreds of pages that followed, did the authors or any characters in their story ever wonder — after the disintegration of every child on Earth along with the miraculous termination of every pregnancy — if this meant that humans would never again be able to have children. The jarring “Eighteen months later” time-skip at the end of the second book skipped over the period nine months after the Event in which, if it were possible, the first children would have been born in the post-Rapture baby boom.

The authors never tell us that baby boom happened, but they never tell us it didn’t happen either.*** Like all of their characters, the authors don’t seem to have given a second thought to the missing children or to the implications of a childless world.

It is only now, more than 800 pages later, that we get this back-handed, tangential acknowledgement that apparently, yes, pregnancy and childbirth are indeed possible post-Rapture. And the only reason we learn this is because without such new pregnancies, the Antichrist would have nothing to abort.

Of course that still doesn’t explain why, just 18 months after the world’s population instantaneously dropped from 7 billion to less than 4 billion, anyone would be worried about trying “to get a handle on worldwide population control.”

- – - – - – - – - – - -
* This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Gordon Currie’s portrayal of Nicolae in those awful movie adaptations of the first two books. As the actor playing this character, Currie had to make a choice. It had to be one or the other — either he could play Nicolae as knowing he was the Antichrist or play him as not knowing. Yet neither the screenplay nor the books would allow him as an actor to commit to one or the other and stick with it without contradicting that choice several times along the way. So Currie chose the only option he had left and just camped it up as much as he could get away with. Since that was the only choice left to him, I think it was the right choice. If the character you’re playing isn’t permitted to make sense, then you can at least try to make him entertaining.

Still no word on who will be playing Nicolae in the upcoming Nicolas Cage-led reboot of Left Behind. I’m hoping for Charlie Sheen. I might have said Adam Baldwin, but since the parts of Rayford and Buck have already been cast, I’ve had to give up on my dream of an all-Baldwin ensemble, with Alec as Rayford and Stephen as Buck.

** Since the authors insist that these books are a literal portrayal of the literal events literally prophesied in the Bible, you may be wondering where in the Bible it says that the Antichrist will have superpowers, including his own Satanic version of the Jedi mind-trick. The Bible doesn’t actually say that.

My guess is that the authors gave Nicolae such superpowers based on their “literal” reading of Revelation 13, which describes two “beasts” — the first of which the authors regard as their Antichrist. Of that first beast, the Apocalypse says, “the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. … The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.” And then of the second beast, it says, “by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth.”

Once you understand how the authors got from that to Nicolae’s mind-control mojo, you’ll understand what Tim LaHaye really means when he says he always reads the Bible “literally.”

*** Here is, as far as I remember, the only conversation in any of these books in which anyone expresses the slightest concern or curiosity about whether the conception of new children would be possible post-Event. This is Hattie Durham and Rayford Steele talking on the phone, back in the first book:

“Things are getting so strange,” she said. “You know I have a sister who works in a pregnancy clinic.”

“Uh-huh,” Rayford said. “You’ve mentioned it.”

“They do family planning and counseling and referrals for terminating pregnancies.”

“Right.”

“And they’re set up to do abortions right there.”

Hattie seemed to be waiting for some signal of affirmation or acknowledgment that he was listening. Rayford grew impatient and remained silent.

“Anyway,” she said, “I won’t keep you. But my sister told me they have zero business.”

“Well, that would make sense, given the disappearances of unborn babies.”

“My sister didn’t sound too happy about that.”

“Hattie, I imagine everyone’s horrified by that. Parents are grieving all over the world.”

“But the women my sister and her people were counseling wanted abortions.”

Rayford groped for a pertinent response. “Yes, so maybe those women are grateful they didn’t have to go through the abortion itself.”

“Maybe, but my sister and her bosses and the rest of the staff are out of work now until people start getting pregnant again.”

“I get it. It’s a money thing.”

“They have to work. They have expenses and families.”

“And aside from abortion counseling and abortions, they have nothing to do?”

“Nothing. Isn’t that awful? I mean, whatever happened put my sister and a lot of people like her out of business, and nobody really knows yet whether anyone will be able to get pregnant again.”

Rayford had to admit he had never found Hattie guilty of brilliance, but now he wished he could look into her eyes. “Hattie, um, I don’t know how to ask this. But are you saying your sister is hoping women can get pregnant again so they’ll need abortions and she can keep working?”

“Well, sure. What is she going to do otherwise?”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Atwood had it figured out – in the wake of a widespread fertility crisis, the pro-choice movement would fade as abortion became viewed as an unspeakable act.

    As I recall, Attwood had a situation where the ruling authority had anyone who was ever involved in abortion executed and hung from trees in public squares. Not so much a generally agreed unspeakable act as those who were pro-choice cannot risk speaking about it out of fear for their lives in the face of a Taliban-like Christian Dominist regime.

  • aunursa

    Something about praying to Satan, and having conversations with him post-indwelling.

    Before the indwelling, Nicky prays to Satan and follows Satan’s directions. After the indwelling, Nicky is out of the picture. He’s kinda like John Cusack at the end of “Being John Malkovich,” in which he is merely a viewer and has no control of the body of his host. Following the indwelling, it’s Satan who is speaking and acting, using Nicky’s body.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    That’s the thing. In the wake of such a demographic crisis, there would be a massive shift in how we viewed childbirth. I could see pregnancy being viewed as both a blessing (possibly bordering on veneration, as has happened in some places) and an important civic duty. The abortion debate would vanish overnight. That’s not to say that every woman (or every couple) would view a pregnancy as a blessing, but I suspect that social pressures alone would be sufficient to drop the abortion rate into the cellar.

    Dammit, there are so many opportunities in these awful books to do some really in-depth world building, but Ellenjay never follow through.

  • AnonaMiss

    Ah, but you’re forgetting: if the bomb dropped on Chicago is any indication, these were magical radiation-free nukes.

    It’d be just like Hippie Dictator Nicolae Carpathescu to use the bomb equivalent of veggie burgers.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    That’s not even the half of it. Jenkins throws in the whole pro-life pick-n-mix – euthanasia, even “death panels” over a decade before that became a term. Those two don’t make much more sense than promoting abortion, but they just had to throw them in.

    Oh, and don’t forget way back in Book 1, where (I believe) Hattie was lamenting that the lack of pregnancies would put those abortion mills out of business. In some ways, this is actually a lot more subtle.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Well of course we are eager to get back to impregnating-and-aborting. How else would we get delicious stem-cell fetal jam for our toast?

    I heard that somewhere on the internet, so it must be true!

  • Baby_Raptor

    I can honestly say that if I found myself in the LB situation, pregnant, I’d be running for an abortion clinic. Think about it:

    If you’re an RTC, you know the hell the world is going to be put through over the next ~7 years. Plagues, fire, death, destruction, war, having to constantly hide out and be off the radar for years (in the later part of the series)….And with the 3/4s of believers death rate this series has, what are the odds you’d actually survive to raise the kid?

    If you’re just a typical Joe, you’re seeing a world that JUST saw every single child/pregnancy disappear. What’s to stop that from happening again? And who would want to go through it again? Further, there are wars, and nukes, and civil/political unrest…Not a stable environment. Definitely not the best environment to raise a child in. Plus, since you’re not an RTC, you don’t have the mystical power of TurboJesus assuring you it’s all going to be okay. So you’re likely an emotional mess. Typical Joe might not even be stable enough themselves to raise kids.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    Thank you… that is all.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Brings up a good point – where does birth control fit into Nicky’s grand population control scheme? In the real world, population control is handled more through contraception and sterilization than through abortion or euthanasia. Granted, contraception wasn’t as hated and feared by the right in the 90′s as it is now, but you’d expect that LaHaye would have some memory of being mortified by the pill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LeilaSmith79 Leila Smith

    There is a series of excellent short fllms called “Future States” which touches upon what life could be like in America if we don’t deal with current issues like polution, rich/poor divide, technology, etc. One of the episodes was called ‘Laura Keller : NB’ It starred Amber Benson and it dealt with a society that had a fertility lottery due to overpopulation. Apparently young women would be given a chip at eleven years old which would inhibit ovulation and could only be legally removed if they won the lottery based on birthdate. The men of course wern’t given such restrictions and they could even pair up with a ‘winner’ if their own partner didn’t win-go figure. I think you could also only have one baby unless you naturally had multiples and in a divorce setting the other partner could claim fifty percent of the woman’s fertility since it was hard to remarry and or divorce in such a society. It’s an excellent episode that you can watch at http://www.futurestates.tv or on youtube and I think it won a web poll contest for best episode recently. Neat speculative fodder indeed :)

  • Carstonio

    The suspension of democracy is probably more of LaHaye’s Bircherism, where leaders who talk about world peace and saving the planet have domination as their true agenda. Like the environmentalists who are wrongly compared to watermelons, green on the outside and pink on the inside.

    While Nicolae’s eugenics agenda is obviously a straw man, I’m not sure which way it’s intended to work. Based on the horrid conversation that Fred quoted from the first book, Nicolae might be exploiting the claimed threat of overpopulation to push eugenics for his own power. Or we might be expected to believe that only an agent of Satan would support eugenics for any reason.

    How worse does the straw-manning get in this series? Will Nicolae impose homosexuality indoctrination?

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    It’s interesting that almost everyone in this thread is of a similar mindset about this section. Makes you wonder if the books could have been saved with test marketing and extensive editing – and if they still would have been a massive success.

  • MaryKaye

    It strikes me that this passage and ones like it could be much improved just by moving them much earlier in the story, before we know that Nicolae is the Antichrist. Suspending voting is a wicked and creepy thing to do *before* you take over the world; it’s kind of an anticlimax eighteen months later. And having eerie feelings of evil around someone is interesting before they start WWIII, but kind of redundant afterwards.

    The whole aspect of *surprise* is missing from this ordering of events. I mean, the reader is going to guess who Nicky is, but they could still vicariously experience the thrill of the discovery with the characters. But the way the story is ordered, the discovery phase is minimized (it’s pretty much over in book I) in favor of the dull “we know exactly what’s going on, we just have to keep going” phase (books 2-11).

    We know the main characters will do nothing of any use. There are still glimmers of interest in the story, as in this scene, just because the raw material is strong. But for a story which is not about the main characters *doing* anything, it seems to me suspense is most of the energy you’ve got, and you should milk it for all it’s worth.

    At least this week’s installment is less boring than the previous ones. I’m fond of mind control themes. And arcseconds’ idea that Nicky’s mojo is peeking in at Rayford is delightfully creepy.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    The bigger the star, the lighter the editors have to step. My guess is that whatever poor sod was assigned to work on NRA was going really easy, and the result is that this whole thing is basically a first draft. Really, books like this go a long way towards explaining why so many editors have drinking problems.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I have vague recollection that generally half-life and the strength of the radiation have a tend to be related. IIRC the idea was that something with a very long half life by definition is decaying slowly, so the radiation goes on for a very long time but there isn’t much radiation at any given time. Something that’s giving off intense radiation is decaying quickly so the radiation doesn’t tend to last as long.

    However, I am not a nuclear physicist, nor do I play one on TV.

  • Grogs

    All things being equal, the radioactivity is inversely proportional to the half-life. Fission products start off typically as incredibly short-lived isotopes, and then decay sequentially into longer and longer-lived isotopes. Right after a blast, if you were in the fallout field too close in, the exposure would kill you in a few hours or less. After a few weeks, you could probably walk around in it for a time without hurting you too much, but if you were living there you’d run into big problems. The general rule of thumb is that for every factor of 7 increase in time, the dose rate drops by a factor of 10. Spent fuel from a nuclear reactor is so radioactive after it comes out of the cor it would literally melt itself from the decay heat if left uncooled. That’s the reason they leave it in a pool for several years before they move it somewhere else.

    Sr-90 and Cs-137 were concerns globally during nuclear testing, because if they built up in, say, your drinking water, they would stick around for a few decades and slowly irradiate people. That’s bad, but it’s an entirely different concern than the short term effects of being in the fallout field.

  • P J Evans

    The upgrade really did a number on things.

  • Carstonio

    Heh! Reminds me of the country music episode of Pinky and the Brain.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Heck, I would support mandatory ovulation-suppression implant chips of that kind right now. Maybe allow authorities to temporarily deactivate the chip for a couple who wants to conceive, provided that they submit to background checks, financial and emotional stability analysis, and get the appropriate parenting certification.

    No more accidents, no letting a pregnancy upset building assets, etc. Of course, lacking such technology now, the closest we can get is comprehensive and reliable sex education and easy access to reliable birth control.

  • Jeremy

    That last passage with Hattie just highlights how much of a gap there is between the “pro-lifers” and reality. They think abortions aren’t the lesser of two evils and a difficult decision – they think women who have abortions actually enjoy them! They have painful medical procedures for fun! Because they’re baby-hating godless liberals!

  • Ethics Gradient

    With Nicolae now revealed as using his mind control mojo for things that most people achieve by being normal, or just doing what their job allows them to, I’m now going to see him always as Kenny Craig, the hypnotist who uses his powers for petty evil, from the Little Britain sketch show. A sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbNSfnHOE_g

  • Loquat

    I’ll come right out and say the Battlestar Galactica Very Special Abortion Episode was terribly written. While they acknowledged the grim reality that the human population was small and kept getting smaller, they totally ignored the other grim reality of resources and living space, which other episodes had already established to be extremely limited. The episode also suffered from the series’ beginning-to-end failure to figure out what all the civilians were doing – there were a great many people in the civilian fleet who’d just been passengers with no experience crewing a spaceship, and while there were occasional mentions that the government was trying to keep something resembling the old economy going, we never really found out what those people were doing with their time, or how they were being fed. So without knowing what the civilians were doing all day, or how they were supported, viewers had no context in which to imagine or evaluate the choices facing pregnant women in the fleet, and the characters arguing about abortion had nothing to say but the standard “it’s murder!”/”it’s her body!” lines from the modern-day American abortion debate.

    And then there was the Black Market episode where we got a monologue from a one-off character about how lots of civilian moms were turning to prostitution to support their kids*, so… yeah. Worldbuilding! It is important!

    (*You just know Nicolae would be horrified by such a thing, and would immediately tax the rich to pay for a welfare program to get those moms off the streets and into some kind of education or jobs program. Meanwhile, Buck and/or Rayford would silently disapprove and tell themselves that those women could only be truly helped by proper Christian charity, voluntarily given.)

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Well, that was the punishment for a variety of offenses, including being a member of the wrong faith. But it was utterly unfathomable to Offred that anyone would break that particular law, and I seem to recall her noting how rare it was to see anyone executed for abortion anymore. In a world where it took so much effort to reproduce, abortion was incomprehensible to most people.

  • hidden_urchin

    I would guess the rate of miscarriages would also increase due to the environmental stress caused by the not-literal Horsemen.

  • arcseconds

    Oh, yes. Jenkins disappoints us by writing a halfway competent mental domination scene with some drama.

    But he makes up for it by having the scene entirely superfluous to the plot, to such an extent that it’s difficult to understand why it’s even happening.

    I’ve been maintaining for a while now that there’s an ironic, post-modern narrative lurking under the hood here, waiting for a writer who understands what they are doing to tease it out of the confused and turgid prose. So when the spy thriller action sequences are interrupted to bring you yet another installment of phone-tag, it’s done in a way which makes it obvious you’re being deliberately denied action in favour of humdrum stuff, and when Our Heroes act in pompous, self-righteous but kind of stupid and ineffectual ways, you can see the author winking at you.

    But I’m starting to wonder whether it wouldn’t also work as a completely straight piece of horror writing, where Nicolae is the post-modern performance artist, a kind of awful combination of Turkmenbashi and Tristran Tzara, writing his absurdist performance in blood and tax reform.

    So, you know, rather than using his mental powers to just rise to the top in a spectacular fashion, he instead uses a mundane alliance with Big Finance. The mental powers are instead employed to make the phone list of the UN sound enthralling and exciting. A more dramatic display of his powers is reserved for when they’re completely needless, in order to implement a plan that makes no sense. He officially suspends democracy after he’s abolished meaningful state governments, and implements a 10-year plan when he knows the world has only 7-years left.

    One day he bombs several large cities, next day he rationalizes the tax structure. He leaves Israel intact so that technically ‘multinational’ is still a meaningful description of a corporation, and he fails to nationalize oil just so he can continue baroque dealings with big business.

    We just need a few scenes where it’s revealed that Nicolae often decides what to do by tearing up political manifestos from all over the place and assembling the bits in random order, have him shoot Rayford dead because he made a thickheaded comment about Duchamp (whom Nicolae was ranting about being ‘bourgeoisie’ only moments before), and that the only reason he kees Buck on his staff is because Buck happened to hire his favourite film critic years before (who, curiously enough, is an intransigent critic of Nicolae himself).

    His next step on the oil line should be to requisition the oil to continue his war against himself, and then to sell it back to the oil companies at a loss, payed for, of course, by a tax at the pump :]

    it’s da da domination!

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Here it is, Chapter 6, pp. 33 in the Anchor paperback:

    These men, we’ve been told, are like war criminals. It’s no excuse that what they did was legal at the time: their crimes are retroactive. They have committed atrocities and must be made into examples, like the rest. Though this is hardly needed. No woman in her right mind, these days, would seek to prevent a birth, should she be so lucky as to conceive.

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

    arcseconds said…

    and when Our Heroes act in pompous, self-righteous but kind of stupid
    and ineffectual ways, you can see the author winking at you.

    This is L&J.

    They’re grinning fatuously like the smug douchebags they probably are when the cash register goes ka-ching!

  • arcseconds

    OK. disqus is being very weird. You were were dylan just before, now you’re MaryKaye. On my disqus page it looks like I replied to Lunch_Meat.

    disqus! I already have difficulties telling who’s who online, I don’t need your help to subvert my concept of continued personal identity!

  • arcseconds

    Yeah, I guess you could say — my fantasy LB++ author is on our side, not on the side of smug douchebags and their bankers.

  • http://twitter.com/pooserville Dave Pooser

    For some reason I’m having flashbacks to the end of Watchmen about now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    “The fact iswill be…” tenses? What are those?

    Minor quibble, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this mixing of tenses. Loosely speaking, a fact in the present can easily describe something in the future, e.g. “the fact is, if I let go of this book I’m holding, it will drop to the floor.” Even if the dropping isn’t an absolute certainty (given the condition), it’s still pretty safe to call it a fact in the here & now.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Do LaHay and Jenkins even understand the full breadth of services that these clinics provide?

    It’s the standard republican party line to deny that those clinics provide any other services. Heck, my mother in law considers herself a liberal, but was going on not long ago about how “maybe techincally they offer those other things but there’s no way anyone would ever go to them for anything other than an abortion, they’d go to a real doctor instead”

    The privilege, it burned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Or why so many drinkers have editing problems.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    And the council will pass a law in two weeks mandating that toilet
    paper must hang so the edge is Over the Roll, not against the wall

    That fiend!

  • Steve Morrison

    Nicolae invented Disqus; to me that proves he is the Antichrist. Mass murder by nuclear war is a trivial sin in comparison.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Hey,. the new disqus format means that if I link to a specific comment, but that comment is hidden behind one of those “Click here to read more of this thread” javascript dealies, I won’t actually be taken to the anchor I wanted. So now it is basically impossible to respond to comments. And since it’s “load more” and not pages any more, it’s wildly impractical to ever read past the first few comments.

    But anyway, I think they did actually have one element of a new angle from the standard modern-day-american debate; as I recall, the girl seeking an abortion was from a tribe that had a pre-existing ban, so there was an extra element of “If she was still living on her home planet, this would be a solved problem, but since we’re all forced to live together in this fleet, do we respect the laws and customs of the tribes, or is everyone subject to “federal” law now, and given the realpolitik of the situation, doesn’t that just mean “we all have to do what Caprican law says”” In that sense, I think this was the first instance of them addressing the fact that what had been twelve not-quite-but-substantially independent civilizations were being turned into a single civilization, and it wasn’t quite wrong to feel that the Capricans were starting to become a de facto hegemony.

    So that’s not nothing. Still a pretty terrible and hamfisted episode though.

  • WalterC

    He doesn’t do that, but he does employ (one) flamboyantly gay man to work for his administration, which is to people like this effectively the same thing as requiring everyone to be homosexual.

  • Matri

    If it was anymore dog-whistle-y, dogs would be howling in pain everytime they get near this book.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LeilaSmith79 Leila Smith

    Not griping at you or anything but one problem I have with that is that the burden of such technology solely falls on the woman. Like today, many men wouldn’t act as responsibily as they should since they would know that most women would have the chip and that could still lead to ‘illegal’ kids being born, though in smaller numbers I’m sure. I think such technology should be as equally dispersed as possible or put the focus on the males for a change since men are the ones who produce hundreds of millions of sperm a pop afterall. One guy from the state I live in actually fathered a total of 30, yes 30, children under ten and was asking the state to help him pay support since he only worked one job and most of the children only got a few dollars worth of support each month. Not to mention all the losers on various talk shows. Yet women are still the ones who get slut shamed while innocent kids have to have their foodstamps and other aid programs cut because it’s easier to do that than hold sorry men resposible for a change. Interesting idea though, especially about the parenting certification part but I would add marriage and relationship certification too to cut down on abuse and divorce:)

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

    Yeah. There is a brief scene in which Satan separates himself from Carpathia’s body. Carpathia collapses, his body wracked with infirmity (for the years between Indwelling to Armageddon, Carpathia had apparently deprived of food, water, and sleep — things that he needs but Satan feels no need to provide).

    This scene also reveals that, after the possession, Carpathia is not able to survive without Satan. Jesus casts him into Hell after the last battle but Carpathia probably would have collapsed and died anyway after Satan was banished, even if no one laid a finger on him.

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

    Nicolai Catskill Mountains accepts that his cat has a brilliant idea. What more needs to be said?

  • banancat

    Also, it’s impossible to be horrified by the possibility of abortion when just 18 months ago, God himself terminated every pregnancy on Earth. I mean, sure, they all went straight to Heaven, but so would any embryo aborted in the more traditional way.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    The problem with using such a technology on men rather than women is highlighted by the example you give. You can’t limit population by limiting male fertility unless you can also limit the number of sexual partners a fertile man has. You can limit it by limiting female fertility. Which isn’t to say limiting female fertility is a good idea, it’s an awful idea for various reasons.

  • banancat

    They frame abortion clinics as relying on pregnancy just for business, because people need money and such, but every single other industry that caters to pregnancy or children is going through the exact same things as the abortion clinics. The obstetricians and pediatricians must be similarly gnashing their teeth that they can’t earn income to feed their families anymore. Likewise with daycare workers, elementary school teachers, therapists and aides for children with special needs, etc. This would even extend to production of things that children are the main consumers of. I work in the pharma industry, specifically in vaccine manufacturing. I’d be out of a job too because about half of our vaccines are primarily given to children. Adults can certainly get the shots, but they wouldn’t need them because most of them were already vaccinated when they were children. Same deal with producers of children’s TV, baby food, toys, nursing bras and pumps, bottles, formula, and maternity clothes.

    So many people’s jobs would be affected by the complete loss of pregnancy and children. Apparently most of them have found other jobs. All except the evil abortionists like Hattie’s sister. Why can’t she just do whatever the elementary school teachers did to support herself?

  • banancat

    I’m pro-choice and I’ve probably saved more lives than you have. It’s disingenuous to describe yourself with that term unless you are actually doing more than pro-choice people to save actual lives.

  • Vermic

    Doesn’t Nicky realize that every aborted fetus just adds one more innocent soul to God’s ranks?

  • banancat

    That really is an interesting aspect about the federal versus “state” laws. And it could have been a really great plot in itself. But honestly do not remember that part of it at all. I’m sure it did happen and I believe you, but it was clearly overshadowed completely by the rest of the horrible episode so that I never even noticed that subtle part.

  • banancat

    Finally, is it possible to explode slowly?

    In a world where it’s possible to speak in an eager monotone, surely anything is possible.

  • Vermic

    So Nicky has to mind-whammy his own lieutenants? On a planet that still houses a few billion people, he can’t find ten who’ll just do their job without needing orders spoon-fed directly into their brains?

  • banancat

    I agree with your point, but the second part of your example is actually not straight future tense, and is instead a subjunctive phrase. A better example of a use that would make sense is, “The fact is, I will die some day”, which is perfectly accurate statement with mixed present and future tenses.


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