NRA: Bored with Plank

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pg. 153

Bad news, I’m afraid, for Steve Plank.

You remember Steve? He used to be Buck Williams’ best friend. For years, in fact, Steve was Buck’s only friend. Buck lived alone in New York City, thousands of miles from his family. He had no friends from school, and most of his other colleagues at work viewed him with jealousy and resentment, so Steve was all he had.

If Buck needed a ride to or from the airport, he called Steve. If Buck needed to talk to someone about story ideas, he talked to Steve. Steve was also the boss who helped guide Buck’s career and his rise as a professional magazine writer. So Buck owes him.

And yet here we are in Book 3 of our series and it seems that Buck, and the authors, have grown weary of Steve Plank. Poor Steve’s days are numbered.

The authors telegraph Steve’s fate here in the middle of Nicolae, where Jerry Jenkins has decided to devote a couple of chapters to catching up with peripheral characters. Buck sees Chaim Rosenzweig and that leads to several pages of reminding readers who Chaim is, what’s happened to him so far, and how fond Buck Williams is of his old friend. Rayford Steele gets a phone call from Hattie Durham and off we go on a multi-page review of Hattie’s history in the story and a reminder of Rayford’s guilty sense of obligation to his former co-worker.

Those review sections emphasize that the authors are still invested in Chaim and Hattie (and also in Tsion Ben-Judah, a.k.a. Bruce Barnes 2.0).

But when we get to Steve Plank, he only gets two dismissive paragraphs. Uh-oh.

Those two paragraphs, of course, involve Buck making a phone call:

Buck settled into his room on the third floor of the King David Hotel. On a hunch he called the offices of the Global Community East Coast Daily Times in Boston and asked for his old friend, Steve Plank. Plank had been his boss at Global Weekly what seemed eons ago. He had abruptly left there to become Carpathia’s press secretary when Nicolae became secretary-general of the United Nations. It wasn’t long before Steve was tabbed for the lucrative position he now held.

It was no surprise to Buck to find that Plank was not in the office. He was in New Babylon at the behest of Nicolae Carpathia and no doubt feeling very special about it.

Buck showered and took a nap.

I’m not sure what to make of Buck calling Steve “on a hunch,” and then not being surprised that Steve wasn’t in. I suppose that means Buck is no longer surprised when his hunches turn out to be wrong.

In any case, Buck’s dismissive sneering makes it clear that Steve Plank’s fate is sealed. He has cast his lot with Nicolae and will therefore die and be damned to Hell for eternity. And the authors are no doubt feeling very special about it.

What has Steve done, exactly, to earn this sarcastic derision from his old friend Buck?

Well, first he took a job as an assistant to the Antichrist, signing on as Nicolae Carpathia’s press-secretary. For Buck and for the authors, this is unforgivable — even though, at the time that Steve took that job, Buck himself was busy giving Nicolae a standing ovation, then arranging for a private audience so that he could beg Nicolae for protection.

Buck stuck a deal with Nicolae in which he agreed to bury a story in exchange for his personal safety. As a consequence of that deal, three people were murdered — one pushed off a ferry and two shot. And despite knowing all this, Buck kept his end of the deal and never reported on any of it. But apparently none of that is as bad as taking a job as a press secretary.

We’ve just learned, though, that Steve is no longer serving as press secretary. He left that job for a lucrative post working directly for the Antichrist as his hand-picked puppet-journalist in charge of a daily newspaper. For doing that, he clearly deserves damnation.

Buck Williams took a lucrative post working directly for the Antichrist as his hand-picked puppet-journalist in charge of a weekly newsmagazine. And that, of course, is completely different.

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  • hidden_urchin

    Of course it’s different. Buck is disapproving while he works for ultimate evil.

  • banancat

    But Plank might very also be secretly disapproving. If he does it in the same way that Buck does, nobody would ever even know about it.

  • hidden_urchin

    And if he did it in the same way as Rayford, the whole world would know about it.

  • Matt

    Was the Chicago church the only one that did this? For all we know, everyone on Nicolai’s staff may be secretly Christian and plotting to pull out his chair from under him at a moment’s notice.

  • Viliphied

    but none of them ever do it because none of them know each other’s secrets because they’re all too busy derisively sneering behind Nicolae’s back to notice that everyone else is too.

  • DavidalBarron

    It reminds me of the Get Smart episode where Max infiltrated a KAOS cell but discovered that every other member was also a mole.

  • banancat

    Oh god, if that were the plot twist at the end of this Left Behind nonsense, I would read it legit.

  • The Other Weirdo

    And ended up karate-chopping every single one of them. He was very sorry afterwards.

  • Hth

    I know I read too many comic books, but I can’t read about the broken friendship between Steve and Buck without going to a very Captain America/Winter Soldier sort of place.

    You know what’s way, way better than LB? Captain America. (I know, you were going to say “everything.” Well, I took the high road!)

  • Jared James

    I was going to say Twilight, but that would just have been mean.

  • aim2misbehave

    That leads to good questions about 50 Shades of Grey… maybe they can go on an “as bad” level?

  • Jared James

    I’ve downloaded, but still not attempted, Fifty Shades. I can boast that I made it almost four pages into Twilight before giving up in despair. I didn’t even contemplate suicide (or genocide.) (for long)

  • Jenny Islander

    Read Cleolinda’s summaries. Cleolinda makes everything good.

  • Jared James

    You are not wrong.

  • Lliira

    50 Shades is bad, but not as bad. Imo, it’s not even as bad as Twilight, though it’s horrible on a lot of levels. And I don’t think Twilight is as bad as LB. To get as bad or worse than LB, I think you need to look at the later works of L. Ron Hubbard.

  • Lori

    We’re getting into fine levels of comparison here, but I thought 50 Shades was worse than Twilight. I more or less made it through all of the 1st book in the Twilight saga. I didn’t enjoy it all that much and I thought the writing was poor, but it wasn’t a DNF. I knew a lot of people who liked it, I wanted to find out what the fuss was about and I was able to do that. Not so for 50 Shades. I don’t remember where I gave up, but it was well before the end. In fairness, I’m even sicker of rich alpholes and bad BDSM than I am of vampires and that was no doubt a factor.

    I agree with you about LB though. The only real comparison in overall horrible is the later part of L. Ron’s oeuvre and what resulted from it. Looking at strictly the writing other comparisons can be made, but when you factor in impact there’s not much else.

  • Lliira

    The main reason I think Twilight is worse than 50 Shades is that Twilight is a hate sandwich with hate soup and a hate drink and a dessert of hate. There are two things in the book: Bella’s virulent hatred of absolutely everything, particularly herself, and Bella’s fascination with how pretty the vampires are, particularly Edward. There’s a lot more hate than drooling over surface pretty, and that’s the whole book. It’s horribly depressing to read, soul-sucking, poisonous. I can’t finish the damn thing because it actually causes me physical pain.

    50 Shades is a traditional romance wrapped in pseudo-BDSM packaging. Pretty, rich, experienced man is an asshole. Pretty, not-rich, innocent girl saves him from himself. It’s badly-written, but meh. The thing about it that pisses me off is the way it portrays BDSM, but BDSM is pretty much always portrayed really really badly. For some reason, most people who write BDSM porn have exactly zero experience in it and exactly zero clue how absolutely central active consent is to it. But that’s nothing new. 50 Shades is a terrible book on every level, but I don’t think it reaches that special level of terrible Twilight does, because it’s not a symphony of hate.

  • Lori

    Honestly, I think I brought so much of my own hate to the 50 Shades party that I didn’t notice the lack relative to Twilight. It’s a traditional romance, but it’s exactly the sort of traditional romance that I loath, both on it’s own merits and because everyone assumes that’s what all romances are like.

    I was never a fan of the uber rich alphole, but the economic downturn really solidified and curdled my hate of that trope. Billionaires who act like assholes are not hot, sexy doms with Secret Pain which can only be healed by the lurv of a particularly dim-witted virgin. They’re actually assholes.

    And the bad BDSM thing just drives me up the wall. It’s not even my personal thing as a lifestyle and it still makes me mad that people can’t do even the slightest bit of intelligent research. It’s not like there aren’t places where actual people who are into it hang out and talk. If forums and such are just too intimidating there’s Tumblr FFS. Ol’ Erika apparently was able to find Xtube (which right there explains a lot). You’d think she’d have also been able to find something more useful, but apparently not. All of which has lead to a huge amount of ignorant blather by people yapping on about BDSM who know fuck all and yet won’t stop talking.

    A week or so ago I read a critique of New Adult books as a genre that did a whole “kids these days” and also treated BDSM as if it’s just something to do when you’re bored with vanilla. (Credit where it’s due—I made one very polite comment and then bailed. I was rather proud of myself for not ranting.)

    I’m glad it doesn’t make you angry. If I was in your position I’m not sure if I’d get there or just go right ’round the bend about it and go off on people.

    ETA: 50 Shades also tends to tick me off more because, if you don’t count 50 Shades itself, I think there has been far less obnoxious crap spawned by Twilight than by 50 Shades. Trends come and go and eventually the crap BDSM trend will die down, but in the meantime there is some truly mind-boggling badness being published.

  • ShifterCat

    I was never a fan of the uber rich alphole, but the economic downturn really solidified and curdled my hate of that trope. Billionaires who act like assholes are not hot, sexy doms with Secret Pain which can only be healed by the lurv of a particularly dim-witted virgin. They’re actually assholes.

    So much this.

    And is anyone else sick to death of the “experienced kinkster top/complete ingenue bottom” thing? Partly in response to the 50 Shades badness, I’m trying to write a piece of smut that has the opposite.

  • Lori

    So. Sick Of. It. There are other ways to do exposition for the clueless. Part of me wonders if authors or editors just don’t get that Daddy/little is a sub-kink and not How It Works.

  • dpolicar

    I wrote a “baby dom” character for a slash RPG site for some months… someone who had only recently figured out that topping in BDSM scenes turned him on and had basically no idea what he was doing, and was figuring it out as he went along in the company of an agreeable partner. (Said partner was equally a novice, so it wasn’t quite the reversal you’re thinking of here, but the perspective was nevertheless fun to write from.)

  • Lliira

    And is anyone else sick to death of the “experienced kinkster top/complete ingenue bottom” thing?

    Yep. But here, you get into people’s kinks. Many people enjoy roleplaying that. (*cough*) The problem comes when people write it as if this is the way it is or should be — and that causes very real problems for real people. There are abusers pretending to be doms, doing everything abusers do, and books like 50 Shades or Laurell K. Hamilton’s tripe (she wrote in one of her books that ball gags take away the sub’s ability to say no) just help that along.

    I think there’s a grey area when it comes to fanfic and stuff labeled clearly as erotica. This exists to turn people on, it’s pure fantasy, etc., that’s perfectly fine. It’s when something starts being touted as some kind of handbook or realistic description that there’s trouble. Fwiw, the 50 Shades author doesn’t seem to be doing that herself at all, but other people are, and that’s really disturbing.

  • ScorpioUndone

    agreed about consent. I think with books like 50 shades, because both characters exist simultaneously within the author’s mind, it’s almost like consent has been given, either actively or implied. Negotiating is never sexy, well, unless I’m doing it. *Anything* can be fun if you do it right.

    I’ve seen this in a lot of books though, where the issue of consent is just sort of skipped, or considered to be an already done deal. I’ve noticed something similar happening in my own writing when I get sloppy. I like to think I notice it more often than not.

    Alternatively, you’re getting a glimpse of the author’s fantasy. A kind of consensual non-consent, or the top who is a mind-reader and knows exactly how far to go without ever going *too* far. Oh sure, he’ll push her boundary past her comfort level, but she’ll thank him for it later. *gag*

  • aim2misbehave

    My problem with 50 Shades is not so much its low writing quality (although having read the entire Twilight series, the entire LB series, and parts of 50 Shades, there’s no question which is at the bottom of the quality list. At least L&J didn’t describe Nicolae’s smile as “…full HD IMAX”) as that it, like Twilight, depicts some extremely controlling, abusive, and illegal behaviour as cute and romantic – in fact, there are a few scenes in 50 Shades which are a form of sexual assault, but one that the narrator justifies away in her mind :-(

  • Sue White

    He was in New Babylon at the behest of Nicolae Carpathia and no doubt feeling very special about it.
    Is it just me, or does it sound like Buck’s jealous?

  • Lliira

    Buck sounds seriously jealous. Nicky likes someone besides him ;_;

  • Ruby_Tea

    Silly Steve, thinking he’s soooo special just because the leader of the world wants an audience with him.

    That is not at all like thinking that being “the youngest ‘senior’ writer ever” should make everyone applaud when you enter a room, or insisting that everyone call you “Captain,” even when they don’t work for your airline or ride on your plane.

  • Charity Brighton

    To be fair, Nicolae seems to have one-on-one conversations with everyone on the planet at some point in the series. The reason it seems that way is because the authors are lazy, but if they weren’t, it would suggest that Nicolae’s charisma and influence is because he literally knows all of his subjects personally, all 2-3 billion of them.

  • Daniel

    I got called into Nicholae’s office myself the other day. Lovely man, though it may be that my having a nose like a young Barbara Streisand made him sympathetic. I’m not bragging, but I am the world’s youngest ever internet comment poster to make a reference to The Way We Were at this time on a Saturday morning, without having actually seen the film.

  • Original Lee

    That (personal knowledge of every living human being) would have been an awesomely creepy superpower for L&J to have given Nicolae. Which of course is why they didn’t do it.

  • ReverendRef

    Is it just me, or does it sound like Buck’s jealous?

    I don’t know if jealousy is right. To me, it sounds more like Bucky-poo is overly self-assured of his own position and is just waiting for Steve to get his comeuppance. I see it as more along the lines of Dana Carvey’s Church Lady from SNL, “Well, isn’t that special.”

  • Sue White

    Hmph. Why would he want Steve to get his comeuppance? Some friend!

  • Vermic

    Somewhere, Buck knows, Steve Plank is doing the Superior Dance in a cushy new office with a coffee cup that says “Nicolae’s #1 Best Friend <3". Buck can picture it and it just eats him up.

  • aunursa

    I learned that there is an additional effect of the Event. Prior to the beginning of Book #1, most of the characters were stagnant in their careers. Apparently the Rapture caused the career trajectories of a select group of people known as the “main characters” to skyrocket from relative obscurity to global influence…

    During the 10-year period prior to the Rapture: (based on the prequels)
    Buck advances from Princeton undergrad to Global Weekly senior writer.
    Hattie is promoted from Pan-Con flight attendant to senior flight attendant.
    Rayford: no advancement
    Nicolae: no advancement
    Steve: no advancement
    Chris Smith (Rayford’s co-pilot): no advancement
    Earl Halliday (Rayford’s boss): no advancement
    Stanton Bailey (Global Weekly publisher): no advancement or retirement
    Abdullah Smith: no advancement *

    From the Rapture to the present:
    Rayford advances from Pan-Con pilot to Global Community One pilot.
    Buck advances from Global Weekly senior writer to Global Community Weekly publisher.
    Nicolae advances from the lower house of the Romanian parliament to president of Romania to UN secretary-general to Global Community grand potentate.
    Hattie advances from Pan-Con senior flight attendant to personal assistant to the grand potentate.
    Steve advances from Global Weekly executive editor to press secretary for the UN secretary-general to Global Community East Coast Daily Times** publisher.

    * Smith, a Jordanian Air Force pilot, will be introduced in Book #5.
    ** A merger of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe

  • Charity Brighton

    That’s part of the whole, “everyone important knows each other personally.” It’s helped by the Rapture, which probably created a lot of vacancies. It does create an odd situation for Nicolae though, because now he has encircled himself with people who hate him and their loved ones, filling the ruling class with current and future foes.

    Almost all of those people end up rebelling against the GC at some point.

  • Daniel

    The “everyone important knows each other personally” mindset is presumably a continuation of conspiracy theories endorsed by such organizations as the militia movement, the John Birch Society and various wacko (note the “k”) religious groups. But in the context of these books, the secret organization dedicated to ruling the world after a bloody and triumphant mass slaughter of all who don’t obey is the Tribbles. So is this another example of the “it’s not what you do it’s who does it” ethos that spans these books?

    I can’t help but notice that Fundamentalists are keen on the argument that God is necessary for morality, yet it is the unsaved characters in these books that show what I would think of as the strongest moral sense. It is the non-Tribbles who are helping at the hospitals, who are notifying the Tribbles if there is potential trouble with Carpathia, who are supporting Nicholae because of his promise to bring peace. It is the unsaved that, instead of taking the cars and houses that are now readilly available, have reestablished legal systems to sell them- compare that to Buck’s trashing of Verna’s car, or scamming the expense account to buy a Range Rover. Every so often “crime waves” are referred to, but nothing is ever shown. So given that the point of all of this is to ram home how we must accept Christianity, why is is that the characters who are almost definitely going to die and burn in the lake of fire etc are more compassionate, caring and human than the “heroes”? Does it just come down to good works being meaningless?

  • SkyknightXi

    I think it also comes down to whether or not a human is working in concord with God’s designs or not. A piece from Anselm of Canterbury’s “Cur Deus Homo?” (the main proof used for substitutionary atonement) comes to mind here, about why God’s desires trump all else:

    Anselm. If you should find yourself in the sight of God, and one said to you: “Look thither;” and God, on the other hand, should say: “It is not my will that you should look;” ask your own heart what there is in all existing things which would make it right for you to give that look contrary to the will of God.

    Boso. I can find no motive which would make it right; unless, indeed I am so situated as to make it necessary for me either to do this, or some greater sin.

    Anselm. Put away all such necessity, and ask with regard to this sin only whether you can do it even for your own salvation.

    Boso. I see plainly that I cannot.

    Anselm. Not to detain you too long; what if it were necessary either that the whole universe, except God himself, should perish and fall back into nothing, or else that you should do so small a thing against the will of God?

    Boso. When I consider the action itself, it appears very
    slight; but when I view it as contrary to the will of God, I know of nothing so grievous, and of no loss that will compare with it; but sometimes we oppose another’s will without blame in order to preserve his property, so that afterwards he is glad that we opposed him.

    Anselm. This is in the case of man, who often does not know what is useful for him, or cannot make up his loss; but God is in want of nothing, and, should all things perish, can restore them as easily ashe created them.

    Boso. I must confess that I ought not to oppose the will of God even to preserve the whole creation.

    Anselm. What if there were more worlds as full of beings as this?

    Boso. Were they increased to an infinite extent, and held before me in like manner, my reply would be the same.

    Anselm. You cannot answer more correctly, but consider, also, should it happen that you gave the look contrary to God’s will, what payment you can make for this sin?

    Boso. I can only repeat what I said before.

    Anselm. So heinous is our sin whenever we knowingly oppose the will of God even in the slightest thing; since we are always in his sight, and he always enjoins it upon us not to sin.

    Boso. I cannot deny it.

    Anselm. Therefore you make no satisfaction unless you restore something greater than the amount of that obligation, which should restrain you from committing the sin.

    Boso. Reason seems to demand this, and to make the contrary wholly impossible.

    Anselm. Even God cannot raise to happiness any being bound at all by the debt of sin, because He ought not to.


  • Daniel

    Thanks for that. It does seem extremely relevant to Timkins’ version of Christianity, right down to allowing a convenient excuse for not doing anything, no matter how slight, that might “go against God’s will”. Of course, in the quote above there is no criterion stated for how we know something is the will of God, and how often “the will of God that I not do X” and “X being a time consuming pain in the arse” might be the same thing. In Timkins’ outlook I think that this is significant- “the Lord’s will” and “what I want to happen” are, miraculously, nearly always the same thing.

    In the spirit of Anselm I’d like to propose the following:

    “Buck Williams” is an investigative reporter than which there can be none greater.
    An investigative reporter who is concerned about other people is likely to make more contacts, and thus have more sources, and thus write more detailed and better stories than a reporter who is self involved and disdainful of others.
    Therefore “Buck Williams” cares about other people.

  • hf

    Smarter Boso: The question is absurd. God would never forbid knowledge
    to his children, who he has endowed with such desire for it, unless the
    time be not right. And yet why would God make us in a manner that allows
    untimely knowledge to hurt us, and also allow an offer of such to reach
    us in His very presence? This is madness. If your question were valid
    then indeed we should not look, as you desire me to say — just as one
    may start from a contradiction in logic and prove all manner of

    (I didn’t recall until after I thought of this how
    appropriate the last line seems as a reply to Anselm. The same guy
    argued, I think, that God could appear to feel passions – such as anger
    and jealousy in the case of YHVH, and also despair as Jesus – while
    actually being an Unmoved Mover out of Aristotle.)

  • Hth

    I think it absolutely comes down to good works being meaningless, in the sense that the biggest argument guys like LaHaye hear from the ordinary world is, But what about all the nice people I know who aren’t RTCs? LaHaye wants you to understand, in gruesome and extensive detail, that all the nice people you know who aren’t RTCs may be exactly as nice as you think they are, but God doesn’t care about that.

    Otherwise, you might decide that A) God really doesn’t care whether or not you go to Tim LaHaye’s church, or B) going to Tim LaHaye’s church doesn’t improve your life in any noticeable way. Both of those conclusions are super bad for business, so it’s to the advantage of people who are invested in that business to make you too scared to entertain those ideas for long. Ergo, church can’t be about any measurable outcome (good works, virtue, Christlike behavior, etc), but only about the completely unprovable threat of looming hell.

    (BTW, I’m not saying that having a robust spiritual life doesn’t improve your life — I think in many/most cases it does. It’s just that a simple moment’s observation will show you that it doesn’t particularly correlate with membership in any specific sect, which doesn’t help LaHaye and his ilk herd people into their sect.)

  • Daniel

    It’s also interesting that often non-believers are accused of nihilism, based on the idea that you can only enjoy life while joyfully anticipating your death. If these books show anything in their main characters it’s almost total nihilism. They are saved from total nihilism by a monstrous self-regard, but even this is not self exploratory- they don’t seem to want to know themselves. The things they value are tokens of their status, and can be dismissed readily when something more impressive comes along- look at Rayford and his Air Force One to Condor 69 or whatever it’s called. They do not care about each other, even, except insofar as the other Tribbles reinforce their image- Chloe clings to Buck to make him manly, Amanda is a mercenary trophy wife and it’s clear they don’t really count as characters because no penis. Ray reflects Buck’s view of himself as a maverick, without ever challenging him to buck any system except accepting recommendations in restaurants, and Rayford gets to feel patriarchal and respected whilst never doing anything to deserve this. They are a Potemkin village made flesh. They don’t engage with their own world, they don’t do anything to save it, because they don’t believe it’s worth saving. They are hollow, horrible characters and I’m puzzled and frightened that anyone would use such bland shells as wish fulfillment roles for themselves- how can you aspire to be seen as either of these two men?

    The only mitigating factor is the unintentional echoing of Wilde’s explanation of “the love that dare not speak it’s name”- the older man seeking the spark from the younger, who in turn wants to learn from the silver templed pilot. They’d obviously not like that, but you know, David and Jonathan also got a mention in Wilde’s speech.

  • Matri

    It has just occurred to me: the “crime wave” that the authors keep insisting is happening?

    People helping the less fortunate, and showing kindness to strangers!

    Try putting the whole book into that context. Naturally, the “good guys” would never, ever commit a “crime”.

  • Tofu_Killer

    Now that you mention it, Nicky’s situation does resemble The Man Who Was Thursday a little.

    Since we know L&J would never read Chesterton* (HEATHEN!), this must be unintentional homage.

    *Oh how I wish GK had written Left Behind, then the self parody would have been intentional.

  • mcc

    Is it possible that the Rapture really did just take everyone on earth except these 11 people

    The reason we only hear from these 12 or so characters (Bruce Loretta Steve Rayford Buck Chloe Nicholae Chaim) over and over is they are the only people left in North America. The reason they use Chaim for every scientist role is he is one of maybe 4 people with a science PHD left on earth. The reason they need Rayford for every pilot role is he is one of two people trained to pilot an aircraft left on earth. The reason why the President of Romania becomes secretary-general of the UN and unquestioned leader of earth is that the UN halls stand empty and there is no one to tell him otherwise. The reason why nobody expresses grief or remorse at the nuclear leveling of entire cities is the cities stand not just devoid of people imbued with the Holy Spirit, but rather that those cities are literally unpopulated.

    Any un-named character is not real. Characters like the car salesman a few chapters back are in the text because the handful of remaining humans like Cameron are play-acting at things like having conversations with a car salesman in an auto dealership and waving a magical “global community credit card” (no such thing). It would make more sense to just walk into the abandoned auto dealership, grab some keys and walk out, but it would feel too lonely. Let’s imagine we’re not the only ones. Nicholae turns on the cameras at the U.N., stands in front of them and gives a speech to an empty room. He can make his speech just be a list of alphabetical countries, whatever comes to mind, because he knows no one is listening. And so on.

    What we have been reading is a shared fantasy by the maybe 13 people left alive at this point– swelling to 25 or something in the later books, as they find more Rapture survivors. It seems a little nonsensical because as with any improv, nobody contradicts anyone else. People clump together based on what they know they are, what the others say they are. “I’m the President of Romania”, one person says, “I’m an airline pilot”, another says, and everyone grabs onto that hard and runs with it (Rayford says, you’re a politician, well surely you could aspire to something higher, uh, Secretary-general of the U.N! Nicholae says, yes of course, and you’re a pilot, you will fly Air Force One for me!) because they are all mutually trying not to face the idea that things like Presidents and Airline pilots don’t anymore exist because Romania and airlines don’t anymore exist. The narrative is focused on communication and the logistics of the few named characters finding each other because those tiny moments of connection with the few remaining humans are the most precious thing in the world to these horribly alone people.

  • Original Lee

    Kafka writes Left Behind! I love it!

  • D Johnston

    Guess that’s how it is – you die, we move up in rank.

  • reynard61

    That’s pretty much how the Military works. I think that that may be a bit of a “No shit, Sherlock!”-type clue as to LaH & J’s mindset while “writing” this tripe.

  • P J Evans

    I worked with someone who had the ‘manager retires, I get promoted’ mindset.
    Come to think of it, they’re the kind of person who would read LB.

  • Tim Lehnerer

    In the film “The Spook Who Sat by the Door” the battlefield promotion rule comes up twice–once when the protagonist is reciting textbook facts to pass his oral exam at the CIA and once when he’s telling the underground revolutionary cell that he’s started how to set things up so the struggle won’t end with their deaths.

  • Phoenix Feather

    I never cared to keep track of the other characters, but it always bothered me that the Antichrist’s rise to power involved him sitting in the Chamber of Deputies for 10 years doing pretty much nothing, then suddenly becoming president of the country. Why wasn’t he slowly working his way up through the ranks? At the very least, it would make sense for him to have become President of the Chamber of Deputies, which puts him next in line for the Presidency of Romania should the current president, say, suffer an unfortunate accident.

    That would have made for a much more interesting rise to power. It would also, however, have required research. So never mind, I guess.

  • Daniel

    Exactly. No one can be expected to know how Romanian politics works. It’s Romania, for God’s sake. That’s all the way over… there somewhere. The Timkins line of thought is probably that Romania is not like a real country, and basically you can become president by owning a lovely tractor or something. I don’t imagine they could find it on a map, let alone bother to find out what its political system is like. I think they thought, rightly, that most of their readers wouldn’t care too much either.

  • Phoenix Feather

    No one can be expected to know how Romanian politics works.

    Except for Chaim Rosenzweig. :p

  • Daniel

    Incidentally Romania has just unfurled the biggest flag in the world. It weighs five tons. Rather unimaginatively it is the Romanian flag, but if you like big flags you should check it out. Or, if you like heavy flags. Or if you like red, or blue, or yellow in large quantities- there’s something for everyone.

  • Lori

    Do we know why Romania felt the need to have the world’s biggest flag? Is it tied to some particular event or is this just their version of the world’s largest ball of twine*.


    If I had the opportunity I would absolutely visit any of those, because I’m weird like that. Except the one in Branson. I have no desire to go to Branson, aka Las Vegas if it was run by Ned Flanders. The area around Branson, OK. Branson itself, no thank you.

  • Daniel

    I think it’s because of their long standing rivalry with Mexico, which used to have the world’s largest flag, and a rather elegant way to use up the EU’s red, blue and yellow dye surplus. The only other country that could’ve done it was Moldova, and they literally haven’t got enough room to store it. It would have kicked off a major international incident. There’s nothing more inflammatory than sneaking your flag onto someone else’s territory. Except an actual fire. That’s pretty inflemmatory.

    Actually Andorra could have done it too, and Liechtenstein, but who the hell cares about them?

  • Daniel

    Inflammatory. Belgians are inflemmatory. What’s the area around Branson? I assume “the rest of the U.S”?

  • Lori

    I was thinking specifically of the Ozarks, which are lovely.

  • Daniel

    I’m about to google that because I do not know what the Ozarks are. I expect mountains, but I want them to be loveable kid’s T.V characters like the Riddlers.

  • Lori

    Maybe you should stick with your imagination. It sounds fun and there’s potential money to be made there. Because yeah, the Ozarks are mountains.

  • Daniel

    I googled them, and yeah, they look lovely… but I can’t see them getting up to any shenanigans.

  • Lori

    What? They’re mountains. They’ll kill you dead if you don’t keep an eye on them. Freak storms. Rock slides. Wildlife. They get up to all kinds of trouble.

  • Daniel

    I meant like loveable children’s characters rather than potentially deadly geological features. So less

    and more…

  • spinetingler

    ant the mountains have some talented daredevils…

  • Lori

    How do you spell that noise one makes for a bad pun? :)

  • j_bird

    Are you thinking of a sad trombone? I’ve seen “wah-wah”.

    Or a “rimshot”?

  • PepperjackCandy

    As a fan of both Superman and Wonder Woman (though not as a couple), I can definitely get behind that last one.

  • Matt

    Come hear my latest sales pitch on How to Get Rich without even Trying: Have an Apocalypse.

  • TheOldMaid

    It depends.

    Chloe: from university student on a full-ride scholarship and 5 semesters on the Dean’s list, to college drop-out and Buck’s “mascot” to use her own word.

    Amanda: from executive, to losing 2-3 jobs (actually, L&J couldn’t make up their minds?) and Rayford’s new cookie-maker in chief. Having said that, we never see her cook. Soon to be dead.

    Bruce: from watching movies in the middle of the workday, to World-Famous Evangelist (TM), to dead.

    Buck’s co-workers (Marge Potter, etc.): fired. His biggest fan but not re-hired by Buck now that he’s in charge.

    Buck’s big boss, Stanford Bailey: fired from the paper he owned.

    Verna Zee: sort-of received battlefield promotion when Lucinda Washington is raptured; loses it when Buck becomes her boss; sort-of gets battlefield promotion again when Buck doesn’t do any actual work.

    So technically, Verna wins. No doubt her No-Prize is in the mail.

  • aunursa

    Actually, Steve Plank’s fate is another episode in which Jerry Jenkins pats himself on the back for being so clever with his plot twists. Following the end of Book #3, Steve is not mentioned (Buck doesn’t even give him another thought) until he makes a shocking reappearance in Book #8.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Heh, yeah. Steve Plank’s days are not quite numbered…yet.

    Dun dun dunnnnnn

    (I actually don’t have a problem with Steve’s shocking reappearance as such—I only have a problem with how stilted the scene is, and with Rayford’s utterly stupid reaction.)

  • Phoenix Feather

    Yeah, what bothered me isn’t that he brought Steve Plank back but that he did it so awkwardly and without any foreshadowing. Plus, we know that this plot twist wasn’t planned and crafted so much as the result of Jenkins picking up his pen one morning and saying, “Oh, hey, I just ‘discovered’ that Steve Plank is still alive!” And thus, suddenly, Steve Plank was still alive.

    That knowledge just completely ruins any merit the scene might otherwise have had.

  • Boze Herrington

    Did he fall out of a building, break all of his bones, and go into hiding? Or am I thinking of Leon Fortunato? It’s been a long time

  • Phoenix Feather

    I think Leon’s the one that fell out of a building.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Spoiler alert! Please do not keep reading this comment if you don’t want to know the amazing story of Steve Plank!!!

    (You have been warned.)

    Steve doesn’t fall out of a building–the building falls on him during the Wrath of the Lamb Earthquake (during which event he is also saying The Magic Words). He’s seriously messed up, left without most of his face. He also had temporary amnesia (of course he did) and nobody could figure out who he was, because I guess the super-tech future doesn’t have DNA testing. So when he gets his memory back, he comes up with a fake identity, and (very quickly) climbs the ranks of the GC in order to take down Nicky. It is worth noting that he does a helluva lot more than Ray and Bucky combined.

    The stupid part of Rayford’s reaction to all this, that I mentioned above, is not that he is shocked that Steve survived, but that he is horrified and freaked out by Steve’s scars and missing limbs and mostly-gone face. Which seems an odd reaction in a world which has suffered The Event, a worldwide earthquake, fire and hail from the sky, and locusts that torture you. You’d think people with tons of scars and missing limbs would be the rule, not the exception.

  • Tofu_Killer

    OMG*! Here is another example of L&J riffing off someone else’s ideas!
    Steve Plank is like Harvey Dent/Two-Face in mirror image!

    As for the stupid part as you call it, that is most of the series, but you will notice that the Tribbles (excepting those throwaway characters that die midstory and the poor poor Bride of Buckey) are essentially unharmed, just like the other ineffectual good guys in this world. So maybe you are right, but damage is a sign that you aren’t Saved/worth knowing.

    *Oh My Golly (given the context).

  • Ruby_Tea

    Indeed. Most of the Tribbers come away from worldwide plagues and disasters with only minor injuries–broken bones and lacerations, if anything at all. (Not to downplay a broken bone, or a cut requiring stitches, but those are not like losing a limb or most of your face.)

    The two exceptions to this that I can think of are Buck and Chaim. Both in (separate) plane accidents, Buck scars up his face (not like Steve Plank, though), and Chaim gets his jaw smashed. And, of course, both these injuries are put to good use when they need to be “in disguise” to (heh) infiltrate Israel.

  • Lori

    Some people just seem to be inordinately freaked out by missing limbs. Clearly losing a limb is a horrible thing and I don’t wish it on anyone, but some people’s reaction to it is out of all proportion. I mean that’s half the plot of Iron Man 3.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 195 pages

  • Daniel

    Please, spare me the agonising wait until we get there- what happens? Does our brave young Buck force her feet into kitten heels? Is she given a flouncy, frilly Irene-Steele esque makeover? Or… oh I really hope she seduces Chloe. PLEASE let her seduce Chloe.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    But that’s okay because Bruce Barnes totally put God’s stamp of approval on the very idea of working for Nicolae Carpathia – being his fetcher, carrier, town crier and chauffeur. All Rayford and Buck need to do now is keep believing in their heads they are totally Godly and inventing sophomoric pranks to play on their boss.

  • Charity Brighton

    Bruce Barnes signs off on working for the Antichrist. A few days later, Bruce Barnes dies a horrific death at the hands of God’s judgment. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing the things Bruce Barnes said were OK. Maybe he was wrong and WW3 singled his hospital out because God was pissed.

  • Daniel

    Bruce Barnes really was rubbish wasn’t he? I’ve been rereading the posts for Tribulation Force again, and honestly- what did that man do? Dig a big hole, hide in it. Exclude everyone you know except four recent converts who you like for… whatever reason.

  • SkyknightXi

    I’m wondering if the conceit at work here is that if someone develops a heart that can become regenerate, then God will guide them to the TF, rather than force the TF to expose themselves to the reprobates’ crosshairs. Unless and until the Holy Spirit moves the TF to actively preach (which Moshe and Elijah are already doing anyway, so the TF isn’t really needed for that right now), they’re to stay put to receive those who’ve already begun to convert and grant them aegis.

  • Daniel

    But what are the TF actually doing that would make their exposure such a massive problem? The one world faith clearly has no problem allowing Moses and Elijah to preach, in a massive stadium, so other religions- even End Times Christian religions- are allowed to continue unharassed. Nicolae has never actually said to anyone that he’s the antichrist, so in theory if Ray and Buck were to tell him they were born agains there’s nothing he could do to confront them without having to blow his own cover. The antichrist has discussed Ray’s faith with him, and Ray’s tendency to badger people into sharing it. So he knows and has done nothing to stop Ray. So what threat would the Tribbles actually be facing if they went out, spread the word, and just dropped hints as to the identity of the anti-christ? No one’s asking them to be Sophie Scholl, just to do what normal day to day God bothering RTCs do nowadays anyway. In fact, the argument could be made that by not doing this Nicolae is more likely to spot that something’s amiss- how many RTCs keep their faith to themselves?

  • reynard61

    “On a hunch he called the offices of the Global Community East Coast Daily Times in Boston Generic Large Liberal East Coast City(…)”

    Fixed that for ya!

    “Buck stuck a deal with Nicolae in which he agreed to bury a story in exchange for his personal safety. As a consequence of that deal, three people were murdered — one pushed off a ferry and two shot. And despite knowing all this, Buck kept his end of the deal and never reported on any of it. But apparently none of that is as bad as taking a job as a press secretary.”

    Repeat after me: “It’s Okay As Long As You’re A Real True Christian.”

  • Lliira

    Buck showered and took a nap.

    Here we see a great example of how Jenkins produces so much. Does Buck showering and taking a nap advance the story? No. Does it reveal Buck’s character? Well, he can nap while supposedly being worried about his good friend, but I don’t think this is an intentional reveal. So let’s put this in the “no” pile. Is it necessary description? No. Is it an interesting line? No. Does it add to the word count? Yes! Even better, it’s a one-sentence paragraph, so it can count for three whole lines!

    If you want to be a hack, take note: telling the reader about the boring minutae of your character’s everyday lives helps immensely with your deadlines.

  • D Johnston

    To be generous, a lot of authors do this. We live in a world where the quality of a novel is judged by its length, so while it might be good storytelling to trim the narrative to the bone, there are incentives to do the opposite.

  • Lliira

    We live in a world where the quality of a novel is judged by its length

    We do? This is the first I’ve heard of it.

  • FearlessSon

    To be more specific, we live in a world in which some publishers judge a book by its length.

    Of course, I would not presume that the publishers of these books judge them only by their length. I am sure that “spiritual appropriateness” of content is a criteria.

    Quality, obviously, is not a priority for them.

  • Charity Brighton

    I don’t think that Tyndale is really obsessed about with length though.

    I think what happens here is that Jenkins gets carried away writing and includes bits that are stupid. At a “normal” publisher’s house there’s probably someone who works there who will say, “Ah, you probably don’t need to include a full transcript of this phone conversation between the main character and the receptionist at a hotel.”

    Here, though, as long as the book contains appropriately Christian themes everything else is OK. If it’s 50 pages long or 500, it doesn’t seem to matter.

  • hidden_urchin

    I think top-selling authors probably have more power too so editors are less inclined to say “cut this. It kills the pacing.” or something along those lines. (Pretty sure there’s a trope for that.) I got that impression from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I think could have lost a good thirty percent and still carried the story. (I also personally think Harry et al. should have returned to Hogwarts and led a resistance movement from inside the school because it would have been far more interesting than a marathon camping trip and also who would have looked for them in their enemies’ midst? *sigh*)

  • Charity Brighton

    True, but I think Tyndale extends that privilege to everyone. They are very egalitarian that way.

    I bet Voldemort would have also liked it if Harry and his friends had all returned to Hogwarts.

  • Arresi

    I’m honestly not sure what the point of Voldemort taking over Hogwarts was. Or at least, that wasn’t already accomplished by killing A.D. and taking over the Ministry. (I was hoping for a siege, with Harry et al using everything they know about the castle and the various secret passages to get supplies, hunt Horcruxes, etc. while keeping the equally well-informed Death Eaters out.)

    On topic, I think it’s more that they (Tyndale and L&J) think they’ll make more money if they publish more books. The “judging the quality of a book by its length” would only make sense if there was evidence that they cared about quality. I’ve yet to see any.

  • Lori

    True, but I think Tyndale extends that privilege to everyone. They are very egalitarian that way.

    I don’t think so. I’ve seen other Tyndale books that are much more tightly edited. I kind of doubt that all those authors are managing that on their own. I’m sure their initial product is better than Jenkins’ because of course, but they’re also getting more editorial input.

  • FearlessSon

    I think top-selling authors probably have more power too so editors are less inclined to say “cut this. It kills the pacing.” or something along those lines. (Pretty sure there’s a trope for that.)

    Lo and behold!

  • Lori

    Needs more Anne Rice.

  • FearlessSon

    Needs more Anne Rice.

    Yeah, but they did an exampledectomy of that page. Too much complaining about how quality of any which thing has gone down. All the examples are only found on the individual work/creator pages now.

  • Daniel

    They couldn’t have returned. During that week it’s a requirement that all school children get sent to be eaten slowly by insects and freeze to death in rain sodden tents in Northumberland, with murderous teachers plotting midnight runs through the unceasing drizzle. Most of the kids end up like Harry et al plotting how to destroy said teacher, so actually I think J.K. Rowling was aiming at gritty realism there.

  • Lliira

    I think Jenkins doesn’t edit at all. He runs his first draft through a spellchecker and that’s it. Then off it goes, and no one else edits his crap, so it gets published like that. But even with that consideration, there is no excuse for putting down the paragraph “Buck showered and took a nap” except to pad the word count, thereby stretching a trilogy over a zillion books, thereby making more money.

    A hack who was not quite so lazy and contemptuous of his audience would have had Buck have a conversation with Steve instead and/or had Buck have an Important Dream centering on Steve during that nap. But Jenkins doesn’t even have that much imagination or respect for his audience.

  • Daniel

    To cut the guy some slack, apparently in the original draft the line “Buck showered” was followed by:
    “He felt a drop of water as the shower burst into life. Then another. Several more droplets hit him at once. He was no maths expert, but he counted at least seventeen hitting him on the shoulder at once from the top of the range shower head he’d had specially fitted by Bath Sheba’s, the baathroom supply shop in New Babylon. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty. This was going to be quite a shower, he thought as the twenty first droplet followed with deliberate speed, majestic instancy. Twenty two, and more.”

    The editors advised him that this was very similar to a novel by the Count from Sesame Street so it was edited out for legal reasons.
    “Twenty three, twenty four drops of water “AH AH AH!” thought Buck as the twenty fifth made its presence felt.”

  • FearlessSon

    You know, this reminds me a bit of David Webber’s Honor Harrington series, but in that he actually uses number counts partly to enforce a certain sense of scale, but also to build up tension.

    For example, two ships are firing at each other across space. One ship fires W many missiles at the other, X of those missiles are intercepted by enemy counter-missiles, Y are further shot down by point-blank energy weapon point-defense fire, Z of those missiles survive long enough to detonate and project lasers into the ship’s hull.

    Followed by the number of casualties inflicted.

    It works in his case because each number is less than the one which proceeded it, reflecting how from a salvo of so many missiles, all it takes is a fraction of them to get through and kill characters you care about.

    Somehow, I doubt that Jenkins understands how to make this kind of thing interesting.

  • Daniel

    Stepping out of the shower and preparing to take forty
    winks, Buck paused and turned to look out of the window. He gasped as he contemplated the immorality of the unsaved- in the stunning orange glow of the nuclear sunset he saw several people dancing naked on the streets, gyrating and thrusting away. He leapt to draw the curtains.

    “Sick.” He thought, as he saw the lascivious dancers shed their skins in one smooth movement before falling to the floor, exhausted.

    Buck lay back on the bed, grateful for his ability to sleep
    through anything. A seasoned world traveller he had stayed everywhere, from guest houses to five star hotels to the houses of important and wealthy people he knew. They weren’t his friends, as such, because Buck had a code of ethics most people didn’t seem to agree with, and whilst this allowed him to accept favours from them he could never respect them. He had his integrity.

    Buck thought about the great shower he’d just had, and tried to ignore the noises from the corridor where it seemed the other guests had decided to have some sort of a race- there was a thunderous noise of footsteps and obviously some of the more excited guest/spectators were screaming encouragement. Blasphemous encouragement. Buck pitied them.

    The shower head had been specially made in Bath
    Sheba’s, the salesman had told Buck it was the sort they normally sold only to certified heads of state, but now they’d got a job lot on their hands since the obliteration of all nation states and their agglomeration into one supranational world spanning post-modern Pangaea. Buck had negotiated the salesman down from the original price of $4000 to only $3500. He almost felt guilty for it, the salesman never stood a chance. Buck chuckled. It was the one luxury he carried everywhere now- it was universal and thanks to two space-age plastic seals it could be fitted to any bath taps in the world. The rubber tubing could be conveniently fitted into any bag- just what a seasoned world traveller like Buck needed.

    The screams outside continued.
    “My eyes are melting!” one frantic voice shouted,
    and another responded “I can’t find my wife!”.
    “The flowers are in the trash… my eyes are melting… I can’t find my wife… where do the kids today come up with these things?” thought Buck as he flicked the TV on. But nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing.

    Buck was a seasoned world traveller- he had stayed in Hiltons and less expensive Hiltons, he had slept in cars when someone else was driving, and had once slept on a sofa after that girl in college laughed when he…
    He thought again about the shower head. It soothed him to think of it spraying all over his back and face.
    “Hello, reception?” he shouted into the phone.
    A cheerful voice replied
    “How may I help you sir?”
    “Call me Buck.”
    “Oh hello Mr. Williams, how can I help?”
    Buck rolled his eyes. Like she didn’t know.
    “I’ll tell you how you can help, in case you’re unaware of this the TV in my room doesn’t seem to work.”
    “Yes sir, none of them do…”
    “Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind. As you know I’m a seasoned
    world traveller.”
    “Yes, Mr. Williams, I remember you telling me when you
    checked in.”
    “But I’m also a journalist” he was being modest. He
    wasn’t just A journalist, and the receptionist knew this as well as he did. She was being deliberately obstreperous.
    “How am I supposed to do my journalising if I can’t
    watch the news? Hmm?”
    “I’m sorry Mr. Williams, I think it’s something to do with the nuclear bomb that’s just gone off…”
    “I don’t want excuses.”
    “No, it’s just a lot of people are on fire right now,
    and I’d like to put them out. Also I have family I’d like to check on, and I think my skin might have started to peel off because of the enormous heat.”
    “So how soon can you fix the TV?”
    “I imagine once the electromagnetic pulse has worn off
    or something- I’m not that au fait with nuclear weapons.”
    Buck sighed “au fait”- how pretentious! He spoke to her in plain English she responded in Latin. She was probably Catholic. How he wished he could have told her the truth about what was happening…but he’d already eaten too much into nap time.
    “Is it possible to call out from the hotel?” He prayed silently, and then audibly, that it was. Please God, don’t take my phone!
    “Probably, these phones are universal. But I imagine
    the lines will be busy what with survivors trying to contact their relatives…”
    “Just get it sorted!” He slammed down the phone and sighed again. The unsaved were so selfish.

  • Enopoletus Harding

    Daniel -You are truly the best commentator I have read in months. Your parody skills are excellent. I wonder: is there any phrase Jenkins uses as much as “seasoned world traveller” above?

  • Daniel

    Thank you kindly. I follow the golden rule to “write what I know”- arrogance, pomposity and a willingness to listen to flattery. Unfortunately I’ve already written more than the GIRAT otherwise I’d be a shoe in to play him in the remake.

  • Newbiedoobiedoo

    “Vast tracts of land”?
    “Nicolae smiled”?
    I was going to say “steaming piles of produce,” but that wasn’t the authors. That was all of us.

  • Enopoletus Harding

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

  • Lori

    I don’t think that Tyndale is really obsessed about with length though.

    I think that they have a fairly standard word count. Other books put out by them tend to have about the same number of pages as the LB books. As a comparison, you can see the various series cranked out by Bodie & Brock Thoene are about the same length. Themes and other content issues are obviously primary, but I doubt that it’s a coincidence that so many Tyndale books have page counts in the high 400s, just like it’s not a coincidence that Harlequins tend to be between 250 and 285 pages, depending on the specific line.

    I have family members who love the Thoene books, so I read a few years ago.They weren’t good*, but they were much less bad than LB in pretty much every way. I strongly suspect that the amount of filler in even the early LB books is due to Tyndale editorial preferences combined with Jenkins’ lack of skill as a writer and everyone’s desire to crank out as much of this crap as possible because it sold.

    *The ones I read were heavy on Jews figuring out that Jesus was the Messiah after all. There was a real fashion for that in Christian books in the 80s, sort of like all the Amish romances they crank out now and offensive in pretty much the same ways.

  • Dogfacedboy

    Since we’re in the part of the book where Jenkins is regurgitating what happened in previous books, I’m a little surprised that Steve Plank is given such a concise recap, given that Jenkins could have padded the hell out of that, too. And that Buck doesn’t actually get through to him. I suspect Jerry wasn’t feeling well this particular day and didn’t churn out his usual 20 pages. And that bit about Buck taking a shower and a nap? I think that’s what Jerry planned to do as soon as he turned his word processor off.

  • Baby_Raptor

    To be more fair to Bucky than he probably deserves, sleeping can be a way of dodging worry (or other stuff one wishes to not think about.)

    That would probably be more depth than he actually has, but it makes him seem a little more human.

  • Daniel

    Buck is shallow, callous, career driven, indifferent to or even dismissive of other people, self-regarding, self-pitying, lonely, boring, pompous and petulant. He actually has got quite a lot of human traits there. Unfortunately, the humour, warmth, kindness and compassion that are also human traits seem to be missing. Still, there’s what 13? more books to go?

  • banancat

    The sad part is that this is yet another thing that had potential but failed to achieve it. In some cases, describing mundane things can be interesting just to get a deeper feel for the setting. Right now I’m re-reading Wheel of Time from the beginning, and Jordan likes to describe in detail every meal and article of clothing. Some people don’t like this, but I like it because it’s just interesting to think about.

    Ellenjay could’ve actually taken this and gone with it. They could have used it just to be interesting, but moreso they could have used it to set a feeling for the futuristic setting. What are the sheets made out of and how do they feel? Is the shower controlled by a computer yet? How is it different than the beds and showers he used before he was and Important Person(TM)? Does it make him reflect on the sameness of all the expensive hotels he’s stayed at recently?

    The Hunger Games described the showers in the house that all the tributes stayed in while training, and it added to both the setting description and the mindset of the characters as they experienced something so unusual. In some cases it is useful to write about a shower or nap. It can be done, but Ellenjay failed miserably to take the opportunity, yet again.

  • Lliira

    Absolutely, there are ways to do this to make it matter. Jenkins doesn’t care enough to do that.

  • Sue White

    Oh, they set a feel for the setting all right. Even during the End Of The World, life for privileged people consists of boring, everyday things like making phone calls, taking showers and napping.

  • Naked Bunny with a Whip

    o/ It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Buck feels fine. /o

  • PepperjackCandy

    The descriptions of clothing, food, architecture, decor, and so forth in the WoT seemed to me to flow just as easily as the action and dialogue did. This is not necessarily true of the descriptive passages by other writers.

  • Daniel

    Buck also slept soundly next to his severely injured wife without being disturbed by her whimpers of pain, so I suppose this reinforces the notion that he’s a devoted follower of the Lord who lets no personal tragedy interfere with his calling. Cynics might say it shows he’s callous and cruel, and critics may point out that this really doesn’t advance the story or offer a window into his character at all, but RTCs know it’s one of the most difficult things in the world to have a really good nap when your only friend in the entire world is working for the Antichrist.

  • chris the cynic

    Douglas Adams:

    Those who are regular followers of the doings of Arthur Dent may have received an impression of his character and habits which, while it includes the truth and, of course, nothing but the truth, falls somewhat short, in its composition, of the whole truth in all its glorious aspects.

    And the reasons for this are obvious: editing, selection, the need to balance that which is interesting with that which is relevant and cut out all the tedious happenstance.

    Like this for instance: “Arthur Dent went to bed. He went up the stairs, all fifteen of them, opened the door, went into his room, took off his shoes and socks and then all the rest of his clothes one by one and left them in a neatly crumpled heap on the floor. He put on his pajamas, the blue ones with the stripes. He washed his face and hands, cleaned his teeth, went to the bathroom, realized that he had once again got this all in the wrong order, had to wash his hands again and went to bed. He read for fifteen minutes, spending the first ten minutes of that trying to work out where in the book he had got to the previous night, then he turned out the light and within a minute or so more was asleep.

    “It was dark. He lay on his left side for a good hour.

    “After that he moved restlessly in his sleep for a moment and then turned over to sleep on his right side. Another hour after this his eyes flickered briefly and he slightly scratched his nose, though there was still a good twenty minutes to go before he turned back on to his left side. And so he whiled the night away, sleeping.

    “At four he got up and went to the bathroom again. He opened the door to the bathroom…” and so on.

    It’s guff. It doesn’t advance the action. It makes for nice fat books such as the American market thrives on, but it doesn’t actually get you anywhere. You don’t, in short, want to know.

    -Beginning of Chapter 25, So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish, in the American hardcover edition of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide printed in 1997

  • EllieMurasaki

    And he’s Douglas Adams, so he gets away with it.

  • Lliira

    Well, he’s talking about what isn’t necessary to the book. Even so, there is insight into Arthur’s state of mind and character there. He has problems sleeping. He has a good side. He has to do everything in the correct order, even getting ready for bed. He has blue-striped pajamas. And it’s Douglas Adams’ style, so it’s well-written.

    One can describe napping and showering in a way that matters. Simply stating that a character napped and showered isn’t it. What boggles my mind is how easy it is to make napping and showering matter in a way that pads word count even more. But Jenkins couldn’t be bothered. He’d rather describe phones, that’s easier.

  • Ross

    At least according to legend, it didn’t occur to Adams that Arthur was still in his pajamas until they were filming the TV series, which is why it’s not mentioned in the radio series or the first two books.

  • D Johnston

    This is the part where it starts to become clear that this was originally a much shorter series. Plank is a fairly significant character, yet he just disappeared for a good long while and is going to do so again.

    This is problematic from a writing perspective. Every time a key character reappears after a long absence, the writer has to stop and remind us who this person is and why we should care about him/her. This completely disrupts the flow of the narrative (not that it was silky smooth before, but still).

    Now, in really epic novels or long series, there are ways to deal with having a giant cast. Most of these stories don’t have a single protagonist, or even a series of them – they have an omniscient narrator who can drift around with the story. This way, we can keep track of everyone who might be important in the near future. But the two defined narratives in LB are just grossly inadequate for the rapidly growing cast, so we end up with awkward asides like this. It might have worked when this was a much smaller trilogy, but the extended series is utterly hamstrung by it.

    At times like this, I have to remind myself that I’m the small-time amateur and Jenkins is the one getting paid to teach people how to write.

  • FearlessSon

    Honestly, all this is why I gave up on the Wheel of Time series before Robert Jordan even died. Jordan is a much better writer than Jenkins, but the plot advancement in those books got spread across such a wide area it was hard to keep up with. Characters (and their associated arcs) could disappear for a few novels at a time, only to be reintroduced when you had almost forgotten them, and Jordan had to keep up with so many that by the end of the book maybe a day or two had passed in narrative time.

    Still good, just got too much to keep up with and that impacted the pacing too strongly for me to enjoy it so much.

  • themunck

    Case in point, book 8 and 10 are both around 800 pages, IIRC. I tend to advise people to just read the Wikipedia summery instead.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Same thing happened to Turtledove’s TL-191 series, although it was mitigated to some extent by purposely keeping the focus rotating among different characters.

  • fraser

    During the 1990s, according to Spider-Man writers of the era, they’d routinely be told “Sales on the first issue of this four-parter are going through the roof! Make it an eight-parter!”

  • Jamoche

    Back in the days when there was a decent signal-to-noise ratio on Usenet, before the Wheel of Time fans got their own newsgroup, a new book in the series would produce a flood of posts about how there were a few questions answered but not many, but that’s OK, they’ll probably be answered in the next book, oh, and aren’t the new questions that got raised this time interesting?

    And since this was the mid-90s and even then there didn’t seem to be an end in sight, I made the wise decision to wait until the series was done before considering starting it.

    (Come to think of it, that’s also why I bailed on “Lost” after only a few episodes. Another wise decision.)

  • Charity Brighton

    I don’t think Jenkins teaches people how to write. (If you’re interested in learning how to write, you are already more skilled than he is and there’s nothing you can learn from him). I think he teaches people how to get milk off of Christian audiences, and that’s not the same thing at all.


    Tyndale House lists “Left Behind” for a measly $19.99.
    Now, if an editor really wanted to, they could cut the main series into at most three books. A single trilogy, with a total street value of $60.

    But the real Christian entrepreneur shouldn’t be satisfied with that. No, if you really want to give glory to the Lord, you know that ‘trilogy’ means no less than 16 books; that’s about $320 — or five times the amount of money.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have enough material to justify 16 books!”

    Of course you don’t. No one does. Even the master himself didn’t really have it — 95% of the series is filler that could be omitted without even altering the surrounding plot. It takes a lot of skill to come up with good filler though; you have to figure out a way to use 50 words when zero would do, and that’s tougher than it sounds. (But then again it pretty much has to be…)

    But if you have a good copyeditor, one who walks with the Lord, this person can show you all of the ‘tricks of the trade’, so to speak. You can widen the margins, add random page breaks, and embiggen the font (Arial 14.5 is the gold standard — it’s just large enough to take up space but it’s small enough to not look obvious. The extra .5 is Jesus’s way to say, ‘I love you.’)

    As far as page count goes — remember, you only need about 2- to 300 pages to be considered a novel. Anything beyond that should be spun off into another $20 book. And if you’re writing a “For Kids” version of your main series, all you have to do is cut a standard novel in half. You can still charge the same amount of money though. There’s nothing that gladdens the Lord’s heart more than scamming little kids out of their lunch money with crappy novelettes.

    Some Communists might complain that this strategy lacks artistic integrity, but people like that don’t usually buy books like this anyway.

  • Phoenix Feather

    I know the above post is sarcasm, but last year I legitimately went to a “how to get published” seminar where the speaker’s advice consisted of: “To make your book seem longer, change the font size, add bigger margins, use thicker paper, and stick a couple of blank pages in the front and back of the book–no one will notice. Also, if you just make up a publishing company for your book, no one will notice.” Luckily, this was a free seminar, but I can easily imagine Jenkins charging people for sitting through similar awful advice.

  • Lliira

    I notice when people pull the big font, big margins, lots of white space thing, because it gives me headaches. This is one reason I seem unable to finish Twilight.

    What I don’t get is why anyone needs to pad books, unless they’re trying to pad a trilogy into a 16-ology (is there a word for that?). When I write, I end up with about five times the material I need, and that’s a very conservative estimate. Some of it just needs to be trimmed or tossed. But much of it can be used in other things. And I know I’m far from alone in this — I’ve seen writers say it over and over again. Maybe trying to pad trilogies into 16-ologies is more common than I thought.

  • D Johnston

    What I don’t get is why anyone needs to pad books

    Well, the industry generally won’t print books that are below a certain length, probably because a lot of people use the size of a book to judge its value.

    I run into a similar problem. All of my novels are very short – usually just over the line of what’s technically considered a novel. Every time I finish one, I go back over it to see if there’s anything I could have developed more, any arcs I could have pursued. Usually, I can’t find anything. If they’re trim, it’s generally because I leave out the huge bricks of description that are the reason I rarely read modern novels.

  • themunck

    How long is that, exactly? Short enough to publish 2-3 together with a similar theme and call them long novellas instead?

  • fraser

    I don’t judge a book by size, but I have noticed that even a slim book isn’t going to be that much cheaper–in fact it’s usually expensive enough I’m less likely to buy it. Which is why even reprints of older books get bundled into combined volumes.
    I imagine there’s an economy of scale thing going on too.

  • Lliira

    Every time I finish one, I go back over it to see if there’s anything I
    could have developed more, any arcs I could have pursued. Usually, I
    can’t find anything.

    I have the opposite problem. Minor characters become major characters. I end up with two times the major characters I wanted, five times the intermediate characters, and so many minor characters it’s ridiculous. And I could write a book about any of them. Trying to focus on the people I want to stay main characters of *this* story is difficult.

    I don’t do much description at all. Certainly not overly much. If your novels are the length you like them at, then roll with it. But if you want to add more, description is probably not the only way to go. Also, description just info-dumped on the page may occasionally be necessary, but usually there’s a better way to do it. It can develop character or advance the plot, and occasionally it can do both.

  • Phoenix Feather

    I’m with you on that, Lliira! My current novel attempt was original supposed to be a 20-page short story. Now I’ll be lucky if I can keep it to 200 pages.

  • Daniel

    I can’t ever seem to write more than four pages before I give up in disgust and go and eat cake! The longest thing I’ve ever managed was a dissertation and even then I was 500 words below the word count. I had to spend an hour before it was due in adding five words to every page. Personally I thought that was a stroke of genius.

  • D Johnston

    Oh geez, the fake publisher. That one’s really the tops. I once ran across someone who not only set up a website for her fake publisher, but listed her own works under several pen names to make it look like the “publisher” had multiple clients.

    To the best of my knowledge, though, Jenkins has never advised anyone to use sleazy tricks like page inflation or bogus publishers. For some reason, all of his advice assumes that the author has a publisher who will swallow any crap he gives them. Go figure.

  • Turcano

    AKA the “Middle School Term Paper Method.”

  • D Johnston

    The sad part is, that’s not all that different from a lot of real guides for independent authors. The number one piece of advice is “write a series,” often advice on how to arbitrarily split up a single book into several parts (which is probably why every self-pub author has a trilogy these days).

  • reynard61

    “Tyndale House lists ‘Left Behind’ for a measly $19.99.”

    That’s $20 more than I’m willing to pay.

    “The extra .5 is Jesus’s way to say, ‘I love you.'”

    Ah, sweet Charity; Celestia and Luna bless you and upvote you for that line!

  • Jen K

    …and when this was coming out, I knew people who insisted these books were “better thrillers than James Bond, because they’re, like, real.”

  • Cathy W

    Please tell me I’m not the only one with Ed, Edd, and Eddy flashbacks….

  • Guest

    Ah, feck it! Bored with plaaaaaank!

  • FearlessSon

    Bored with Plank?

    Has the meme become stale so fast?

  • Sue White

    He wooden be making a pun, wood he?

  • JustoneK

    nailed it.

  • Daniel

    I think we all saw that one coming, plane as day. I think you were wise to branch out from wood puns to tools, though. I’m giving this my awl but really there’s just so many I’ll have to leaf out- I just can’t stick to anything. That’s a problem as you grow elder. I should probably stop now and log out before I go overboard.

  • Adamlangfelder

    Man I could write a better story than these idiots any day of the week. I would love to know what Richard Dawkins would say about this garbage!

  • arcseconds

    Probably that it was garbage, and little more.

    The same question came up quite recently. I had a bit of a look for it (I thought it was on some recent left behind post) but I can’t find it.

    I agreed with the earlier comments: we’re much better off with Fred critiquing these books, because he’s able to give us an insight into the subculture at play here, having been a part of it.

    He’s also able to speak up for a Christianity that wants no part of this immoral, egoistical, so-bad-its-good-no-actually-its-just-bad tripe.

  • flat

    I completely agree with you.

  • banancat

    What is this I don’t even

  • Lectorel

    A bit late, but still: More adventures of Anti-christ Hattie.


    “How do I look, darling?” Hattie asked, drawling the last word in an imitation of an antebellum lady and swirling her ankle length brown skirt.

    Nicolai smiled at her, worry lines creasing his forehead. “Like someone far too good for Rayford Steele.”

    “Not that he’ll think that,” Hattie snorted inelegantly. Rayford’s ego would need its own chair at the restaurant. “And I’m off. If I’m not back in four hours, assume the higher one’s forces have actually managed to capture me.”

    “Of course. Please be careful, Hattie,” Nicolai said, twisting the silver band of his engagement ring. “The higher one is cruel, and his followers callous.”

    She sighed, and stepped back from the door. “Something’s worrying you. What is it?”

    “Just dreams. Of heaven, and higher forces. Sometimes I hear my fathers screaming,” Nicolai admitted. “I’m afraid for you, my love.”

    “My lord-father will protect me.” Hattie rose on her tiptoes and kissed Nicolai’s forehead. “All will be well, and the world reborn in fire. Be not afraid.”

    “I’ll try,” Nicolai promised. He tipped his head to her. “Be off then, my love, and wrap that pompous fool around your little finger.”


    That was not the last thing she had to do, of course. There were people who needed to be manipulated into place, a few discreet assassinations to authorize, and some not so discreet reputation ruining to do. And of course, there was Chaim.

    Hattie liked Chaim, for all he was a worshipper of the higher one. He was a good man, the sort of man Hattie would have liked for an uncle. And he looked at Nicolai and saw her love’s innocence and sweetnesss, his desire for peace. His presence was a balm on Nicolai’s soul, a comfort in the dark and ugly game her lord-father and the higher one played.

    Nicolai had been born for her, raised for her, and he understood some things were necessary. But his nature could not be changed, and his heart was bruised and battered from the violence he saw and perpetuated.

    So the fact that he had been endangered by Ben-Judah stupid little broadcast, in which he announced his conversion to messianic Judaism, angered her. And unlike her love, Hattie had no issue with using violence to get her point across.

    “Chaim!” She called, waving to the botanist as she crossed the lobby. “You’re well today?”

    “Harriet,” Chaim said, embracing her. “My dear friend, I am heartsick, but that cannot be changed. I depart for Israeli today, to see if I cannot help Tsion.”

    “Tsion’s family,” she murmured, arranging her face into an expression of sorrow. “To think people could be so cruel.”

    “I do not understand it,” Chaim said, nodding. Hattie squeezed his shoulder comfortingly.

    “We will do what we can to protect you both. The world has lost too many already.” Or she would do what she must to protect Chaim, and make sure Tsion died in a convincing enough ‘accident.’ Stupid fool, announcing the higher one had murdered all the children, and expecting it to go well. She frowned carefully. “But we will need to be discreet. If we’re seen protecting one religious figure above the others, it may lead to further violence. I’m sorry, Chaim.”

    “I understand, my friend. Nicolai must be fair, even when it is difficult, yes?”

    “Just so. Return as soon as you can, please. Nicolai will worry when you are away.” She embraced him a final time, and hurried to her waiting car, biting down on her smile.

  • Abel Undercity

    Just goes to show: When you have a friend in Buck, you… really need to get more friends.

  • Ygorbla

    Man, it sure would be nice if someone had told Plank Nicolae was the antichrist, wouldn’t it? Someone who knew?

    Of course,. if someone knew Nicolae was the antichrist and still took a job for him, that would make them a complete monster.

  • nemryn

    I’m assuming his ‘hunch’ was “Gee, I bet Steve isn’t even in his office, he’s probably out debauching with Old Nicolae.”

  • flat

    Goodbye mr Plank it was an honor, you didn’t deserve to have to work with Buck williams.

  • Chris Doggett

    It’s time for another round of “How L&J’s religion resembles the Elder Gods of Lovecraft”!

    In his old life, “Buck” Williams would often feel lonely, or uncertain, or need help. When he felt those things, he would call up his friend Steve Plank. Steve would listen to Buck’s problems, help him feel less alone, and try to help him when he could. Steve was Buck’s Friend.

    But now, Buck has a new friend: TurboJesus9000! When Buck feels lonely, he can pray. When he’s not sure what to do, he can pray. When he feels like he needs help, he can pray. Thanks to TurboJesus9000, Buck doesn’t need any mortals to be his friend.

    And Steve? Well, let’s hope Steve finds TurboJesus9000 before the big TJ9K finds him!

  • Ken

    Now that you mention it, Wilbur Whateley’s diary from The Dunwich Horor does sound a lot like L&J’s idea of the Second Coming.

    They from the air told me at Sabbat that it will be years before I can clear off the earth, and I guess grandfather will be dead then, so I shall have to learn all the angles of the planes and all the formulas between the Yr and the Nhhngr. I wonder how I shall look when the earth is cleared and there are no earth beings on it. He that came with the Aklo Sabaoth said I may be transfigured there being much of outside to work on.

  • Daniel

    Erm, I know I’ve not been here long and this might seem like a terrible imposition, as it’s in no way related to the thread, but can I just ask for… reasons… how interested would anyone be in reading the adventures of a suicidal drunk cyborg assassin employed by the British Royal family who is over a hundred years old and gave Tiny Iommi his metal fingers? Also he is the one responsible for shooting Arthur Rimbaud in London. I’m not sure if I should pursue this, so please, intelligent and witty commentators, let me know how this appeals to non-subjects of HRH.

  • TheOldMaid

    Sounds like in addition to your personal touches it has elements of Tony Stark mixed with hints of Bruce Banner from The Avengers, a wildly successful story.

    In other words, go for it.

    Side note: apparently Amazon wants to buy and publish fan fiction:

    (Be sure to read and understand the terms first: )

  • Thrifty

    Steve isn’t killed. He just sort of drops off the face of the Earth during this book and is never heard from until book 8, when he turns up all deformed from injuries caused by one of the earlier judgments. He’s working covertly against Carpathia doing basically what the Tribulation Force SHOULD be doing; undermining Carpathia from the inside despite the inevitable course of nature. He tries. But Steve becomes a Christian and is eventually executed for failure to take the mark.

  • Pacal

    Once again we find out that Buck et al are willingly working with what and who they “know” is the embodiment of pure evil. Enabling that evil to further spread and prosper. Yet because in their hearts they are “True Christians”, they are holy and unmarked by collaboration with Satanic evil. Why because their “intentions” are pure and holy. Intention is the magic Kool-Aid that makes everything better. Well whatever! This of course forgets the stuff about the road to hell is paved with good intentions.