TF: Another world

TF: Another world July 27, 2010

Tribulation Force, pp. 257-258

After 250+ pages in which nothing much happens, we encounter the opposite form of bad writing — two pages in which too much happens, all off-stage. And what happens is not something that could ever happen.

Rayford Steele has been half-drowsing in first class, flying back from his uneventful visit to the White House, when the name Nicolae Carpathia makes him sit up and take notice of the news report flashing by.

What follows is 17 sentences of jaw-dropping nonsense. It's a collection of blithe, off-handed impossibilities — things that cannot, would not and will not ever happen on this planet.

The behavior here contradicts human nature as it is known throughout recorded history. It contradicts human nature as portrayed in the previous paragraph — the depraved, debauched hordes of godless criminals just described are now expected to join hands for an endless chorus of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." And it portrays a series of actions in which human nature contradicts itself.

We've already read about Nicolae Carpathia's magical power of mind control. This is implausible — there's no such thing as magical mind control here in the world we know and inhabit. But the age-old trope of the evil sorcerer is familiar, and so we're willing to play along for the sake of the story. It's a bit strange to encounter such a character in a book that purports to describe actual future events that the authors insist really will and must occur in the near future, but we readers are accustomed to suspending our skepticism to accommodate things like evil sorcerers in the service of a good story.

As this series of books progresses, the supernatural elements become more extravagant — miracles and monsters and demon locusts from Hell. But none of those unreal elements is as off-putting and fatal as the impossibilities outlined in the 17 sentences here on pages 257-258 of Tribulation Force.

Readers are able and willing to accept stories in which the fantastical becomes real. Ghosts, magic, vampires, minotaurs, dragons, hobbits, elves, Wookiees — bring it on. But what we cannot abide are stories in which the real becomes unreal.

When young Lucy Pevensie stumbles through a magical wardrobe into an enchanted world of fauns and talking beasts, we readers gladly follow along on her journey. Those fantastic elements of the story don't throw us off. But if, at any point, Lucy Pevensie were to start acting in a way that no young English girl from the 1940s would act, that would cause us as readers to revoke our willing suspension of disbelief. Human readers require human characters to behave in a way that is recognizably human. Readers are not startled at the sight of Tumnus the faun and readers are not shocked when Mrs. Beaver starts to talk. But if Lucy herself had not been startled and shocked by those things, we would have stopped reading right there.

The 17 sentences that follow are impossible and impermissible. What follows portrays 4 billion human beings behaving in a way that no one ever has or ever will or ever could.

This is simply wrong. It violates reality and it violates fantasy. It cannot be. It will not be.

If this — 4 billion humans behaving unlike 4 billion humans — is what is required for the "Bible prophecies" of Tim LaHaye to come true, then those prophecies will never and can never come true.

These 17 silly sentences refute and disprove the prophecies of Tim LaHaye:

The United Nations Security Council had been meeting several hours every day, finalizing plans for the one-world currency and the massive disarmament plan the secretary-general had instituted. Originally, the idea was to destroy 90 percent of weapons and donate the remaining 10 percent to the U.N. Now each contributing country would also invest its own soldiers in the U.N. peacekeeping forces.

Carpathia had asked the president of the United States to head up the verification committee, a highly controversial move. Enemies of the U.S. claimed Fitzhugh would be biased and untrustworthy, making certain they destroyed their weapons while the U.S. hoarded its own.

Carpathia himself addressed these issues in his customarily direct and sympathetic way. Rayford shuddered as he listened. Undoubtedly, he would have trusted and supported this man if Rayford hadn't been a Christian.

"The United States has long been a keeper of the peace," Carpathia said. "They will lead the way, destroying their weapons of destruction and shipping to New Babylon the remaining 10 percent. Peoples of the world will be free to come and inspect the work of the U.S., assuring themselves of full compliance and the following in like manner.

"Let me just add this," the secretary-general said. "This is a massive, major undertaking that could take years. Every country could justify month after month of procedural protocol, but we must not let this occur. The United States of America will set the example, and no other country will take longer than they do to destroy their weapons and donate the rest. By the time the new United Nations headquarters is completed in New Babylon, the weapons will be in place.

"The era of peace is at hand, and the world is finally, at long last, on the threshold of becoming one global community."

Carpathia's pronouncement was met with thunderous applause, even from the press.

I'll leave it to the comment thread to attempt to enumerate all of the logical and logistical impossibilities of Nicolae's Big Plan and his approach to carrying it out — some of which are hysterically silly. 

Each of those impossibilities is also fatal for this story and for the prospects of LaHaye's "prophecies" coming true. But none of those bugs me quite as much as the overall violation of human nature portrayed in the 17 sentences above.

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