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.”

“Exactly.”

“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.

 

  • Lori

    What, exactly, is your goal here? Why do you keep showing up here to troll? More to the point, what would make you stop showing up here to troll?

  • Persia

    But Buck’s a man! Who else would we care about?

  • Diona the Lurker

    I don’t think Buck has even warned anyone before this that the Rapture has occurred and that they should convert. What makes Ken so special?

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

    Sound suspiciously close to Hattie, Nicolae Grand Tetons’ sweetie…

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

    No no no, it IS those most egregious misogynists that Buck keeps in mind; he knows they are watching, they are always watching, and but one breach in Buck’s Absolute Perfect Manliness, that Ultimate Delicate Balanced Manliness… no no, better to be pitched alive into the bowels of Hell before compromising that True Manliness…

  • Dogfacedboy

    Once again, I’m reminded that Buck is a pile bundle of crap contradictions. A little poem:

    Buck is quite the sleeper
    Can sleep through anything
    World war three, wife’s misery
    Ah, the pleasant dreams they bring

    Buck is big cheese GIRAT
    While seldom ever writing
    And loves the Lord of love and peace
    Especially when He’s smiting

    Buck was in the jet set
    And ran with a fast crowd
    But never managed to get laid
    Until matrimonially vowed

    Buck just loves his Chloe
    The center of his life
    When she’s in danger or in pain
    He oft forgets his wife

    Buck loves Bruce’s printouts
    And reads them every day
    When asked about these trying times
    He knows not what to say

    Buck loves making phone calls
    He does it all the time
    From airport halls and bathroom stalls
    There’s nothing so sublime

    Buck is a Real True Christian
    In the Antichrist’s employ
    Expense accounts and credit cards
    Range Rovers to enjoy

    Buck buys shiny laptops
    At twenty grand a pop
    While all around there’s suffering
    That never makes him stop

    Buck is a renegade
    Who does things his own way
    He unearths shocking atrocities
    And conceals them all away

    Buck is a professional
    Treats all with courtesy
    From car dealers to underlings
    To blessed Verna Zee

    Buck is such a hero
    Of that there is no doubt
    You could be like him you see
    If you just tear your heart right out

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

    You say those things like it matters more than a passing regard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

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

    Oh, puke. Who the hell talks like that?

    That gave Buck the confidence to tell his own story without apology.

    Presumably, it’s All About Buck and his personal relationship with his personal savior. And as usual the reader is left to write the whole conversation himself since the author doesn’t have time (or the talent) to do it.

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

    I still can’t get over how it’s more important for Buck to be the “unapologetic Christian regaling someone with his conversion story” than for him to be trying to process the sheer magnitude of World War Three.

    L&J are clearly dogwhistling to their audience, who have all heard urban-legendry galore about Christians being fearful to talk about their religion, so they have to be like Rayford and Buck, mulishly jutting their jaws out and manfully beating down all opposition to regaling all and sundry with the Dogma of Tim LaHayeBruce Barnes.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    When I killed off 99.6% of the world’s population in my story (quoted as dropping from seven billion to two or three million), I at least skipped a few centuries before picking up with business as usual. :p

    I’ve actually been concerned that the attack on the village which happened in the previous chapter wasn’t given enough consequence, even though in this world, resurrection is a thing — I’ve been hoping that my implications that everyone is working themselves into exhaustion trying to bring back as many people as possible (and getting frustrated when specific people can’t be called back) conveys that grief is happening with a mixture of desperation.

    I suck at these things. :P

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Wow. Bookmarked.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I’m sort of disappointed. I preferred the absurdity of the quoted version.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    He could have used a dozen or more hours the night before, after the day he had had.

    After the day HE had had. *banging head on keyboard*

    However, seven-plus hours had been just enough because when he was out, he was out.

    That’s right – he sleeps better than you do.

  • Deni zen

    Anyone else think that this conversation between Buck and Ritz was supposed or at least should have put into the first book?

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

    He’s a man, and Buck can use him to go places all by himself while he uses his telephone. Since Buck no longer needs to fly first-class as George McGillicuddy, this clearly makes Ken Ritz important enough to actually proselytize to.

  • Dash1

    Please accept this shiny new internet, good sir!

  • Makabit

    Clearly, bitching about other people praying is a far more effective strategy.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Thank you. That was marvellous.

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

    Jenkins craps these books out as a “process of discovery”. Clearly, he discovered a little too late that they needed to be chatting about this in the first book. So he shoved it into this one, heedless of the complete disconnection between a Rapture ~2 years prior, plus World War 3, combining to make a sum total of zero contribution to Buck’s actual thoughts and deeds.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Wow, great husbanding there, Buck!. Most loving husbands might keep one eye open because the injured wife might need to have a drink, some pain meds, go to the bathroom, a little reassurance. But, Buck has to get his zzzzs, so Chloe can writhe in pain all night and wet the bed (remember she has a bad ankle).

    I’m assuming when they have the kid, he’ll never, ever change a diaper or respond to colic or well, do anything that a normal parent would do.

  • stinger

    “…top off the tank before headin’ to Tel Aviv” in the midst of a GLOBAL WAR? Aren’t there permissions to get, routes to plan, military protection to arrange? International air travel is just that casual and simple in the middle of a GLOBAL WAR?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    He’d hardly be a paragon of christian Headship if he did something as womanly as care for a child!

  • c2t2

    As if! That would be too much Evil for one NPC. Next you’ll say there are gay FEMALE Mexicans, and that would just be ridiculous.

  • Guest

    So many people try to describe what a baby’s skin smells like, but this is the first time I’ve seen that distinctive scent called an “aroma” and… wow, it really sounds wrong.

  • Deni zen

    You know, despite the title, we learn exactly nil about the “rise of the Antichrist.” He has a few board meetings about gas prices, and he conducts a few bombings. Clearly if this book had been given to another author this is the book that would have been a prequel with flashbacks to Carpathia’s life and rise to power.

  • Rae

    This. At the church I went to when I lived with my family, it was very international, and we had people there who actually had been tortured or attempted to be murdered simply because they were Christians. So when I hear someone say “We’re being persecuted” when they’re simply not being allowed to force their religion on others, I’m furious.

  • Rae

    I’m like that, too – I’ve slept through a hurricane, a tornado, a college dorm fire alarm, several earthquakes, people jumping enthusiastically on the (unstable) bunk bed above me, and someone crawling into my bed and shoving me over into the wall before going to sleep next to me.

  • Rae

    I’ve had people talk to me like that, but they were all guys who were attempting to flirt with me.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    The slash really does write itself.

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    Also, it basically comes down to “You think what the Antichrist did was bad? Just wait until God has a go!”

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    Especially given that he’s ostensibly the GIRAT: “His friends used to joke that he could sleep through a small war. Once, he almost had.”

  • fraser

    Living four or five hours from Katrina, my former home town saw a big influx of N’Orleans refugees.

  • fraser

    It’s not just terrorism. Just the possibility that some nation, somewhere, might be capable of attacking us, Cannot Be Allowed according to statements by several people in government. If Europe had demanded 100 percent security, they entire continent would be dead.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Well, we get those flashbacks in the two prequel novels. They are atually much duller books than the series proper.
    Though we do get to see the kind of manipulative jerk Irene Steele was to Chloe.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Ha! My comment was downvoted once. Wonder which Disqus rep did that. :D

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I am starting to think that this whole threading/inability to find new comments mess is a feature and not a bug. After all, if we cannot follow the current conversations, we cannot comment on them. This would lead to a much lighter load on the servers of either Patheos or Disqus, as appropriate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    “Headin’ to Tel Aviv”, I love it. Like they were drivin’ to Doylestown or something. Oh, was there a global war going on? I forgot about that.

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

    This has just made me realize that this series, for all the build-up to the evil-villain-Nicolae striding forth to conquer the world for seven years and change, the execution is less than adequate.

    KInd of like the Eugenics Wars novels, actually, come to think of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    There’s gotta be a country western song in there somewhere!

  • Lori

    I was thinking more Hope/Crosby movie, but country song works too.

  • P J Evans

    KInd of like the Eugenics Wars novels, actually

    I think I passed on those. Or else I put them in a box and forgot I had them. (If I find the box, they’re gone.)

  • Lori

    They are actually much duller books than the series proper.

    This is like quantum mechanics. I understand the basic notion, but can’t wrap my head around the details.

  • SkyknightXi

    I’d expect that this whole emphasis on “personal Saviour” actually signifies something of a change in understanding of exactly WHAT the Christ’s Resurrection did. Whereas Unitarianism and other apocatastasist views regard the Christ as coming to redeem humanity as a whole, dispensationalism words it more as coming to redeem every person. Not one wide mantle, but a swarm of single-serving mantles. And whereas a wide mantle is difficult to avoid, it’s pretty easy to miss being under your personalized (as personalized as a form letter can be, anyway) mantle if you don’t act just right…

  • esmerelda_ogg

    You’re probably right. But I still HATE the threading. It makes it really hard to follow the flow of the conversation.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett
  • Edo

    It’d be a bit more plausible if the other blogs on Patheos had also been forcibly shifted to threaded comments sections too…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    We can like our own posts, apparently Why, oh why, did disqus think this was a smart move?
    “…Angola, Antigua and Berbuda, Argentina, Armenia”
    You said it, Nicky.

  • Patter

    [Whistles & cheers!] Well done, sir!

  • Lori

    There are actually people who prefer the threaded comments. They’re a pretty small minority here but they exist :)

  • Edo

    That’s a great observation, about the salvation of all vs. each. (I’d extend it further, but I don’t have the time right now; but I want to thank you for it.)

    I think it’s less “dispensationalism” than “modernity.” Premodern theories of atonement were all fairly collective; the Reformed tradition (from which the Baptist and evangelical traditions descend, in their several lineages) is fairly uniquely personalized, and Reformed corporate soteriology never really took off. (And L&J are Americans, fundamentalists, and Baptists; all of that ties into the atomizing individualism of the franchise, too.)


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