NRA: A responsive reading

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 133-135

If the first few pages of Chapter 7 of this book had been excerpted and published as a sneak-peek teaser before the rest of the book came out, then this little section might have been bearable.

Jerry Jenkins is doing several things at once here — reinforcing Buck Williams’ role as a (literally) jet-setting VIP, reintroducing the character of charter pilot Ken Ritz from back in the first book, and presenting another little Sunday-school lesson on the duty of personal evangelism. The first and last of those are a bit tedious, but Jenkins does a capable job of the second one.

Like most of the peripheral characters in these books, Ken Ritz benefits from not being Buck or Rayford. We want to be able to like someone in this story, so we’re inclined to treat characters like Ken with a generous benefit of the doubt. In this passage, taken by itself, Jenkins doesn’t give us any powerful reasons to dislike Ken, so we’re willing to regard him as a breath of slightly fresher air and to find him somewhat interesting even despite being told, clumsily, that “Ritz was interesting.”

Unfortunately, though, we can’t take this passage entirely by itself. Chapter 7 follows the previous six chapters, and those were pretty eventful — at least in terms of body count.

Millions of people were just slaughtered. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City have all just been “destroyed” with nuclear weapons.

The metropolitan areas of those cities are home to more than 107 million people, and given what we know of the indiscriminate mass-destruction of nuclear weaponry here in the real world, the previous chapters seem to indicate that somewhere around 100 million people were just killed in this story.

But we’ve also seen in those chapters that this story doesn’t work like reality. In the unreal universe of these books, the death toll from the beginning of World War III is probably less than that.

At least some of the nuclear weapons deployed by the Antichrist’s military were apparently a special, non-radioactive variety. These weapons also seem magically bound by city limits, such that a nuclear bomb dropped on the City of Chicago can go almost unnoticed in Evanston or Calumet City, and won’t cause even the slightest disruption to daily routine 90 miles away in Milwaukee. And Buck’s walking tour of post-nuclear downtown Chicago seemed to suggest that, in the fantasy world of these books, the majority of a city’s residents might survive a direct nuclear strike. So let’s take Nicolae Carpathia literally when he tells us that all these cities would be “decimated” by his nuclear destruction of them. Let’s assume that, somehow, nuclear war only claimed one tenth of the post-Event population within the city limits of these targeted metropolises.

Here’s some hasty diner-napkin arithmetic: If the miracle bombs are confined to city limits, so that Dallas gets nuked but Fort Worth is untouched, then we’re dealing with a pre-Event city-limits population of 39 million or so.

We calculated earlier that the post-Event world without children or RTCs would have a population of around 4 billion instead of 7 billion, so let’s use that same ratio to say the city limits of the Antichrist’s nuclear targets would be home to a post-Event population of around 22 million.

And then let’s accept the physical impossibility of nuclear attacks on those cities resulting in the death of only 10 percent of their population. And then round down.

That impossibly low estimate still gives us two million dead. That is the death toll of the events described in the first six chapters of Nicolae. That is what happens during the first two days described in this book.

Two million people killed, and then Chapter 7 begins. Two million people were slaughtered yesterday, and then Buck Williams wakes up on day three and catches a plane.

Buck had always had the ability to sleep well, even when he couldn’t. He could have used a dozen or more hours the night before, after the day he had had. However, seven-plus hours had been just enough because when he was out, he was out. He knew Chloe had slept fitfully only because she told him in the morning. Her tossing and turning and winces of pain had not affected his slumber.

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

Now, as Ken Ritz landed the Learjet in Easton, Pennsylvania, “just to top off the tank before headin’ to Tel Aviv,” Buck was alert. He and the lanky, weathered veteran pilot in his late fifties seemed to have picked up where they left off the last time he had employed this freelance charter service. Ritz was a talker, a raconteur, opinionated, interesting, and interested. He was as eager to know Buck’s latest thoughts on the vanishings and the global war as he was in sharing his own views.

“So, what’s new with the jet-setting young magazine writer since I saw you last, what, almost two years ago?” Ritz had begun.

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

Buck told him. He recalled that Ritz had been forthright and outspoken when they first met, admitting that he had no more idea than anyone else what might have caused the vanishings but coming down on the side of aliens from outer space. It had hit Buck as a wild idea for a buttoned-down pilot, but Buck hadn’t come to any conclusions at the time either. One theory was as good as the next. Ritz had told him of many strange encounters in the air that made it plausible that an airman might believe in such things.

That gave Buck the confidence to tell his own story without apology. It didn’t seem to faze Ritz, at least negatively. He listened quietly, and when Buck was through, Ritz simply nodded.

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

“So,” Buck said, “do I seem as weird to you now as you did to me when you were propounding the space alien theory?”

“Not really,” Ritz said. “You’d be amazed at the number of people just like you that I’ve run into since the last time we talked. I don’t know what it all means, but I’m beginning to believe there are more people who agree with you than agree with me.”

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Buck said, “if I’m right, I’m still in big trouble. We are all gonna go through some real horror. But people who don’t believe are going to be in worse trouble than they could ever imagine.”

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

“I can’t imagine worse trouble than we’re in right now.”

“I know what you mean,” Buck said. “I used to apologize and try to make sure I wasn’t coming on too strong or being obnoxious, but let me just urge you to investigate what I’ve said. And don’t assume you’ve got a lot of time to do it.”

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

“That’s all part of the belief system, isn’t it?” Ritz said. “If what you say is true, the end isn’t that far off. Just a few years.”


“Then, if a fella was gonna check it out, he better get to it.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Buck said.

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

After refueling in Easton, Ritz spent the hours over the Atlantic asking “what if” questions. Buck had to keep assuring him he was not a student or a scholar, but he amazed even himself at what he remembered from Bruce’s teaching.

“It must have hurt like everything to lose a friend like that,” Ritz said.

“You can’t imagine.”

Two million people were slaughtered yesterday. New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City are no more.

Here ends today’s reading.


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  • Lori

    Do you really sleep that deeply all the time though? Including when you are stressed and when you’re sleeping next to a loved one who is not sleeping well due to being injured or ill?

    The issue is not the Buck is a sound sleeper, it’s that he’s sleeping soundly when most people would not be sleeping at all.

  • VMink

    Good news, everyone…!

    Sorry… I’m just continually amazed at how that sort of thing can latch on. Our brains are amazing things.

  • GDwarf

    Buck had always had the ability to sleep well, even when he couldn’t.

    Wait, what? Try as I might, I cannot parse that sentence. Did they mean “…when he shouldn’t“? or “…when others couldn’t”?

  • Makabit

    I think the total lack of impact of these tragic events may have to do with the fact that the demographic that reads the books seems to think that RIGHT NOW they are suffering through the most terrible suffering EVAH. Look at the video posted a few threads back. Slaughter, fear, religious persecution, and yet, somehow, they struggle on, living ordinary American lives…because, of course, nothing is happening.

    I suspect that they can’t imagine it would be much different from this if a bunch of cities were nuked and there was a worldwide dictatorship.

    Total inability to distinguish dystopian fiction from what’s happening right now. I’ve seen this on the left too, but not quite this cartoonishly.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Well, after all, you know us wimmenfolks. Always whining about every little thing. A manly man can’t be expected to fuss the way a mere girl does.

  • “No, seriously, why? How much money were you making selling weapons to the nations that hate Israel? You’ve never seemed to care much about the conflicts there outside of that. Mr. Minty Mountains, why would they do this?”
    “Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra…”

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Exactly. Exactly. EXACTLY!!!!!

    Granted, this stuff was, um, worded – I won’t say it was written – before 9/11. Still, just a tiny bit of asking people questions about how they behaved right after a shocking event – Pearl Harbor, for example (to pick something within the chronological frame of reference for LaHaye and his preferred audience) – should have stopped them from churning out this drivel.

  • AnonaMiss

    Yes. I might have a hard time getting to sleep, but once I’m asleep, I’m gone. Things that I have slept through without noticing include getting up and turning off the alarm across the room; my little sister wetting the bed; me initiating and my boyfriend reciprocating intimacy (this was in the early days of our relationship before he knew I was such a heavy sleeper, we have a protocol now); and an earthquake. Not all at the same time, of course.

    When I was 11 I had a bike accident in the evening, and due to a combination of trauma and wait time, I had fallen asleep by the time they got around to me at the ER. When the doctors tried to wake me I was incoherent/wouldn’t wake, and apparently one of them was convinced I had suffered a major concussion. To which my mom replied that no, I was always that hard to wake up. (She told me this after the fact, of course.)

    So I’m uncomfortable with the framing that sleeping heavily enough that a restless co-sleeper won’t wake you, indicates an untroubled mind or a lack of care for that co-sleeper.

  • Andy

    Especially since the “rationale” for the nuclear war was that Rosenzwieg refused to share his Miracle Gro formula with Russia. (I believe I’m remembering correctly.) So instead of engaging in espionage to get it, Russia launches not only a war, but a nuclear war involving all of its missiles. Because vaporizing everyone who knows anything about the formula is a sure-fire way to get it.
    (I hope this doesn’t end up a double post; my original one seems to be nowhere in sight as I type this.)

  • Vermic

    “Two million human lives ended on March 20, 2013. The survivors of the possibly-nuclear fire called the war: Wednesday.

    “They lived only to face a new nightmare — the ten-cents-per-gallon tax at the pump…”


  • Lori

    I read a piece earlier today where I woman talked about the birth of her younger brother. He was born two days after Kennedy was assassinated because her mother cried so hard for so long that she went into labor early. (Granted, the woman was having some other difficulties at the time the no doubt effected her reaction, but still).

    L&J both lived through multiple events prior to 9/11 that should have made them aware that people do not act the way their “characters” act. The majority of their readers should also have known this, and yet it seems to have passed them by as well. So disturbing.

  • Lori

    Wow, that is some impressive sleeping. It’s also really unusual. Not in the sense of being weird or indicative of something being wrong with you, but statistically quite unusual. I think it’s safe to say that Buck is just being a dick.

  • rizzo

    Yeah but they were probably teh gayz or something, right guys? I mean, LA, NYC, Mexico City? Those places are filled with Mexicans and gays. Nobody will care if they get nuked, right?

  • flat

    Bravo mr Clark showing the excerpts of the book and then reminding us what happened just earlier in order to show how absurd this is.

    Well done I am impressed by how good you managed to show how absurd and surreal these books are.

    Keep up the good work.

  • It’s also a matter of authorial tunnel vision, I think. For purposes of the story, anything that wasn’t directly observed by one of the leads didn’t happen, or at least was not important enough to affect the story. Remember the plane crashes in the first book – the airport was in chaos, but because it didn’t concern the “heroes,” it was ignored in lieu of the next vignette. That chaos existed (and still exists) in an abstract sense, but because we’re not seeing it first-hand, it can’t factor in to the plot.

    One of the overarching problems of these books is that they’re trying to tell a very big story as though it were a very small story, and it’s just not working out.

  • TheBrett

    Wow. I love the device you used here, Fred – it’s a reminder that this whole section is just downright ghoulish when you consider the context of what has happened.

  • Edo

    (Also, thank you for your kind words; they meant more than you know. Easier to say it here than to stalk you for for email.)

  • flat

    Yes like I said it shows the craftsman skill of a great writer.

  • Maggadin

    I agree with you that the sleeping soundly is not in itself a sign of callousness, as I know more than one very decent person who could sleep through just about anything. Unfortunately, I doubt Ellenjay were really thinking in those terms. That might actually bring some *nuance* to Buck’s character; an interesting quirk.

  • Even if they haven’t seen it directly- if you’re going to write a book set in a world of rubble, take the time to watch Germany Year Zero or The Murderers are Among Us or friggin Godzilla, _something_ that will remind you of how people exist and how their lives are changed after an apocalyptic event

  • Yeah, I think the grossness comes not from the fact that Buck is a sound sleeper- that’s all well and good- but from the fact that L&J seem to be _impressed_ that he had the fortitude to ignore his wife’s injuries.

    Like, there’s a scene in a Discworld book where a character is aboard a storm tossed ship en route to rescue his girlfriend, and while everyone else stays up nervously he gets his eight hours. He cares very much, but he is capable of sleeping anyway, because sleeping is what will help the most.The fact that this is fundamentally inhuman behavior (however practical) is the _point_- it’s characterization, showing a character whose form of heroism is both intensely practical and a bit distancing, because he doesn’t quite have the normal human weaknesses.

    Here, it’s just part of the author’s general habit of confusing sociopathy with strength.

  • Jenny Islander

    The whining just makes me rage sometimes.

    Right now, Indonesian churches are being torn down as their congregations weep on the sidewalk.

    Right now, Iraqi Christians whose churches are centuries old are fleeing their homeland in fear for their lives.

    Right now, Chinese Christians who already lost their church buildings are attempting to meet for worship in parks instead. Every week some of them are arrested for simply going to a church service. And every week there is another service.

    Right now, the President of Sudan has declared his intent to make his nation “100 percent Islamic.” Private charities and foreign congregations are scrambling to get Sudani Christians out of the country as fast as possible, since many of them are too poor, young, old, or sick to leave on their own. Many of these Christians were already living in refugee camps when the proclamation was issued. They are escaping with nothing but the clothes they stand up in and their lives.

    Right now, American Christians are forced to live in a nation that operates under a Constitution that guarantees complete freedom to worship as and when and whom they choose, and to a large extent how as well. They are forced to comply with the operation of a democratic process that is intended to give everyone a voice. And they are forced to give some money to people who fix their roads, and some other money to people who don’t have any food.

    One of these things is not like the others.

  • Edo

    The next moment, the room and its sound-protected booths stank of sweat and fear and broken grammar, as every one of the real-time translators babbled retractions and struggled to keep up. After the fourth retraction in as many seconds, Szandor tore off his headpiece and slammed it onto his desk with a scream of frustration. Hungary was going to complain, he always did, but the representative on the floor wasn’t the problem. It was the Supreme Potentate, and he’d just gone off-script.

    “Against the rise of this threat, the Global Community must stand strong and stand together. People of the world, I call on you to stand with me until this war is won. Peoples of the world, I call on you: come with me if you want to live.”

  • Also, I seem to recall from mention of things yet to come in our reading that at some point, some characters are perplexed at the lack of radiation in the bombed areas, which seemed to say that they certainly expected them to be nuclear, which implies in turn that they were bigger than you’d ever expect from conventional explosives.
    I could be misremembering, though.

  • shrinksarentcheap

    He is a god.

    Watch him love me.

    Watch him rip you limb from limb.

    Watch as he destroys your golden

    idols that were meant for him.

    He is a god.

    Watch him love me.

    Watch him rip the rivers wide;

    watch as bodies flood the shores and

    everyone but me has died.

    He is a god.

    Watch him love me.

    Watch us run through meadows deep

    with the blood of earth’s elations;

    into dripping arms I leap.

    He is a god.

    Watch him love me.

    Watch our slippery bodies grope

    at each other in the mire

    of lucid lies and buried hope.

    He is a god.

    Watch him love me.

    Watch the population cease.

    Dreamy-eyed, he gazes at me,

    “See, now we can be at peace.”

    He is a god.

    Watch him love me.

    Watch the emptied earth sing out.

    I’m the only anybody;

    watch him live to hear me shout.

    ©Shrinks Aren’t Cheap

  • heckblazer

    “New York, Washington, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Dallas, Montreal, Toronto and Mexico City have all just been ‘destroyed’ with nuclear weapons.”

    Hmm. That means that two of the world’s main financial centers just went up in smoke. That also means that the third and fourth largest ports in the country and the largest on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts are gone. That also means that the five of the busiest airports in the world by both passenger and cargo traffic are gone. That also means that the five biggest rail terminals used by the US are gone. Logistically the US, and to a lesser extant the world, is hosed.

  • Baby_Raptor

    They have to cram the “salvation message” in somehow, don’t they? And they don’t have Bruce around anymore to preach it at a bunch of already saved folks.

  • Yay, one other person might have read Pirate Cinema! :p

  • flat

    thank you for reminding me of Christians who have it much more difficult than me, so I know who I have to help and need my prayers.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Which, admittedly, would be hard for some people to find in the immediate aftermath of something that huge. I know it was for me. I just…shut down for a couple days after 9/11. It took that long for me to process.

  • What a guy! He could do things even when he couldn’t do them! :-D

  • “What if” questions – like, what if the authors had gone to the trouble to spell out some of Ken’s questions, along with Buck’s amazing answers?

  • Heck, that actually reminds me of the Spartan-IIs from the Halo franchise. As CPO Mendez drilled into them, rest is one of the most effective weapons you can have. They show that similar kind of detached professionalism which seems, on the surface, inhumane, and yet is perfectly practical. That is actually one of the things that I love about them. This bit from the Halo 4 opening cinematic sums it up well:

    “Record show Spartans routinely exhibited mildly sociopathic tendencies: difficulty with socialization…”
    “The records show efficient behavior operating in hazardous situations. I supplied the tools to maintain that efficiency.”
    “Do you believe the Master Chief succeeded because he was, at his core, broken?”

  • Ah, this had mystified me too, so I went and checked. The complete sentence ends with “. . . even when he couldn’t sleep long,” which makes considerably more sense.

  • Deni zen

    Get used to this kind of thing, where something major happens and then the characters will spend pages talking about something completely inane and different. Nicolae Carpathia comes back from the dead and declares himself God with lightning and fire from the sky, and our heroes will ignore it to concentrate on their travel arrangements or how they slept last night.

    Here’s an excerpt from The Mark: The Beast Rules the World.

    “Buck awoke at noon, Chicago time, and felt twice his age. As had been true every
    day since the Rapture, he knew exactly where he was. In the past it was not
    uncommon to wake up in a foreign city and have to remind himself where he was,
    who he was, and what he was doing there. No more. Even when exhausted and
    injured and barely able to function, somehow the self-preservation flywheel kept
    spinning in his otherwise unengaged mind.
    He had slept soundly, but at the first flutter of his eyelids and that initial glance at
    his watch, he knew. It all made sense in a ludicrous way. Buck stared at the wall
    next to an elevator in a bombed-out skyscraper in Chicago, heard muffled voices
    from around the corner, smelled coffee and a baby. Kenny had his own aroma, a
    fresh, powdery sweetness that Buck conjured when they were far apart.”

    Look familiar?

    Dude, Satan is now physically on Earth, inhabiting the undead body of the most powerful man in the world. How could you possibly sleep soundly?!

  • Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 213 pages

  • Yeah. The characters want to move into Chicago but are worried about the radiation, so they get one of their moles in the GC (Probably Hayseed or Chang) to check and it turns out Chicago was totally FAKE nuked.

  • ophelia

    125 people died at the Pentagon on 9/11 – not that that affects your larger point, of course, but it wasn’t just one city.

    And yeah, America would absolutely be thrown into shock and panic if even one of New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, or Oakland was attacked, much less all of them.

  • What’s crazy is that it’s Buck’s sleep that Jenkins is worried about, and not injured Chloe’s.
    Way to keep the priorities straight, Jer.

  • LaHaye’s old enough to have lived through, if nothing else, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1960s equivalent to 9/11 in terms of sheer fear-of-not-knowing-what’s-next.

  • Jenora Feuer

    Heh. Sounds like me. I have to have a (loud) alarm in the next room over because I can turn off the alarm in my own room without waking up. Not just hit the snooze button, turn it off completely. I’ve slept through earthquakes well into 5 on the Richter scale. I’ve slept through the blower fan on our furnace throwing a bearing and rattling about. I even once, when young, slept through falling out of bed, telling my parents incoherently that I was all right, and climbing back in. Not that I would know about that last except for my parents asking me about it the next morning.

    Like you, I also have trouble getting to sleep. The transition just seems to take a long time in either direction. Which was always annoying during sleepovers because pretty much everybody else in the room would be asleep and snoring before I was…

  • I don’t like to oversue the word “hate,” but I really hate this new Disqus incarnation.

  • Must be invisible neutrons. ;)

  • Makabit

    That’s something I’ve often heard said, but I’m not real convinced. Yes, Europe has a far different experience of war, although in most places, a now somewhat generationally removed one. But it’s not been my experience that Europeans don’t freak out over terrorism, and the 9/11 attack was on a very large scale.

    I’m fairly sure that if France, say, had been hit with a multi-pronged attack that resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, the response would have been on a par with the US one.

  • I’m one of those people who seem to take a while to get to sleep, but I can go from dead asleep, snapping to wide awake, in an instant.

  • An Internets for you. :D

  • Makabit

    Well, logistically, the US was already hosed once. One thing that has always bothered me about the Rapture is that we’re going to lose more people than anywhere except maybe Samoa.

  • Makabit

    Even some gay Mexicans, I hear.

  • Helena

    Le me and the Nobel committee know if your prayer ever helps anyone.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You again, Helena? Haven’t you learned yet that being an obnoxious antitheist doesn’t actually win you any kudos?