TF: Rev. Barnes Regrets He’s Unable to Lunch Today

TF: Rev. Barnes Regrets He’s Unable to Lunch Today November 28, 2011

Tribulation Force, pp. 437-440

Buck Williams answers the telephone. Here is what Buck will learn from this phone call: Bruce Barnes is in the hospital in a coma.

I’ve told you that much ahead of time to save you from doing what I did when I first read this section — going back to re-read Jerry Jenkins’ account of this phone call to marvel at how strange the tone of the caller is for someone relaying such news:

In the morning Buck took a call from one of the women who helped out in the office at New Hope. “We’re a little worried about Pastor Barnes,” she said.

Unlike the inner-inner circle of the Tribulation Force, the outer-circle members of New Hope Village Church don’t get to call Bruce by his first name. Especially not the women who help out in his office — they don’t get even names themselves.


“He was gonna surprise y’all by comin’ down there for lunch.”

“We thought he might.”

“But he picked up some kinda bug in Indonesia and we had to get him to the emergency room. He didn’t want us to tell anyone, because he was sure it was something they could fix real quick and he could still get down there. But he’s slipped into a coma.”

“A coma!”

“Like I say, we’re a little worried about him.”

The likeliest explanation for the chirpy, cheerfully inappropriate tone of this phone call is that Jenkins has an awkward, tin-ear for dialogue and is incapable of writing anything that sounds like actual human conversation.

An alternative theory is that while Bruce was traveling, “one of the women who helped out in the office at New Hope” found out about the secret personal shelter Bruce has been building with the congregation’s offering money. In this conversation, she’s just giving Buck the same cover-story she gave to the EMT — “some kinda bug in Indonesia.”

That should be just misleading enough to keep them from testing for ethylene glycol in the autopsy.

Rayford and Amanda met Earl Halliday at O’Hare at ten that morning. “I’ll never forget this, Ray,” Earl said. “I mean, it’s not like carting around the potentate himself, or even the president, but I can pretend.”

“They’re expecting you at Kennedy,” Rayford said. “I’ll give you a call later to see how you liked flying her.”

Just then “Amanda answered a page from Chloe” and they too learn that Bruce is in a coma, in the hospital, in Arlington Heights.

Jenkins worked for Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for many years. He’s put Bruce Barnes in an actual Chicago-area hospital — Northwest Community.  This is in Arlington Heights, and Jenkins knows just where that is and the best way to drive there, either from downtown or from the airport. And he’s very excited to share this information with readers.

Buck and Chloe were waiting at the curb in front of the Drake when Rayford and Amanda pulled up. After quick embraces all around, they piled into the car. “Northwest Community is on Central, right, Chlo’?”

“Right. Let’s hurry.”

Spoiler: If the suspense is too much for you, here are Google Maps’ directions from the Drake Hotel to Northwest Community Hospital. It’s 25.7 miles and — apart from rush hour and/or the second horseman of the apocalypse — about a 39-minute drive.

The couples bask in the glow of their togetherness:

Despite their concern for Bruce, Rayford felt a little more whole. He had a four-person family again, albeit a new wife and a new son. They discussed Bruce’s situation and brought each other up to date, and though they were all aware that they were living in a time of great danger, for the moment they simply enjoyed being together again.

That’s from Rayford’s point of view, so when he says the couples “brought each other up to date” he doesn’t realize that Buck may have neglected a bit of news. Like, for instance, the series of clandestine phone calls he’s shared with the former president in which he was warned that this very day a massive insurgency would be attacking New York and Washington.

Buck himself seems to have forgotten all about this. He’s the publisher of a major newsmagazine and he knows that armed conflict is about to destroy two American cities, but he’s not checking in with the office, or even checking the radio for breaking news. He’s just sitting in the back seat, holding hands with Chloe and thinking how much better his new family is than his old family was:

How refreshing to be with people who were related and yet loved each other, cared about each other, respected one another. He didn’t even want to think about the small-minded family he had come from. Somehow, someday, he would convince them they were not the Christians they thought they were.

Buck knows what his own family needs to hear to be saved from the Antichrist and the Devil, and somehow, someday, he’s going to tell them about it. He’s been meaning to, really he has. Just because he hasn’t managed to find time for a visit or a phone call in the first year and a half of the Great Tribulation doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about them. There’s still plenty of time before the end. After all, we haven’t even seen the second seal opened with the second horseman of the … hey … what’s with this traffic jam?

“What’s this?” he heard Rayford say. “And we’ve been making such good time.”

Rayford was trying to exit onto Arlington Heights Road off the Northwest Tollway. Chloe had told him that would put them close to Northwest Community Hospital. But now local and state police and Global Community peacekeepers were directing a snarl of traffic past the exits. Everything came to a standstill.

Since the authors haven’t bothered to sort out how this one-world “Global Community” government is supposed to work, I’ve settled on my own theory. The state police here relate to the OWG in kind of the same way that Herod’s client state related to the Roman Empire. They’re independent and in charge of their jurisdiction, except when they’re not, which is whenever the OWG says.

But I still can’t figure out whether these local police would be armed or not.

Rayford rolled down his window and asked a cop what was happening.

“Where’ve you been, pal? Keep it moving.”

Amanda fumbles with the radio, looking for a news station. It still doesn’t occur to Buck that he really ought to know exactly what’s going on and to realize that it’s the sort of news that will be covered on every station.

They stopped again, this time with a Global Community peacekeeper right next to Buck’s window. Buck lowered it and flashed his Global Community Weekly press pass. “What’s the trouble down there?”

After more than 800 pages, this is the closest Buck Williams has ever gotten to actual reporting.

“Militia had taken over an old Nike base to store contraband weapons. After the attack on Washington, our boys wiped them out.”

“Our boys” refers, apparently, to the OWG military of “Global Community peacekeepers.” As far as we readers know, that military seems to be made up of the former U.S. military, but wearing new uniforms.

“The attack on Washington?” Rayford said. “Washington, D.C.?”

“Keep moving,” the officer said. “If you need to get back this way you can get off at Route 53 and try the side streets.”

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  • Rikalous

    The Glorious Appearing bit reminds me of the scene at the end of Good Omens where the legions of heaven and the legions of hell are lined up across from each other, and the narration notes that someone with very precise instruments might have been able to tell the difference.

    Although now that I think about it, the Tribs are a bunch of arrogant asshats who might benefit from that kind of talking-to. So Nicky Mt. Doom still comes out ahead. At least Ellenjay succeed in making the Devil looks as evil as their god.

  • Rikalous

    I’m envisioning Neil Patrick Harris again.

    I think he would make an awesome Nicolai.

    He does have experience with mind control and world domination plots. Plus, Ray and Buck become much more palatable when I picture them as Captain Hammer.

  • The passage from Glorious Appearing aunursa quoted is only of only three scenes post indwelling that Nicolae actually appears in the main series (I think Kingdom Come has another where Nicolae is shown in Hell being tortured with fire and screaming “Jesus is Lord,” or some such.)

    In none of the scenes where Nicolae appears does he seem happy.

    First there’s the one described, where Lucifer is a jerk for Nicolae for no readily apparent reason.  Also it should be noted that apparently being dead without a Lucifer in you is not comfortable, aunursa cut out the set up in which Nicolae went from someone who seemed like a god in human form to someone who seemed like a badly reanimated corpse.  Very badly.  At least zombies don’t seem profoundly uncomfortable, but Nicolae not so much.

    So that’s the first Nicolae scene post indwelling.

    The second one is pretty simple.  Nicolae, Lucifer, and the false prophet all flee the last battle on food.  Lucifer outruns Nicolae.  Presumably Nicolae’s not too happy about being left behind, especially since (based on the first scene) without Lucifer in him he has difficulty standing, much less running.  Perhaps it was fear of the greatest mass murderer in all of history (Turbo Jesus) that sustained him while he ran.

    The third one is at the not-so-final Judgement.  Lucifer has crawled back inside Nicolae and is smugging it up in Nicolae’s body, Jesus separates the two, Nicolae begs for forgiveness.  Jesus sends him to Hell.

    In none of the times Nicolae gets to be on his own instead of a shell for Lucifer am I left with the impression he’s happy with the situation.  In the first one I get the impression that he’s terrified of Lucifer.

    This is not part of the deal he was promised (he was promised that he’d rule along side Lucifer, not that he’d be an ill respected tool) and he wasn’t expecting to die at all.  Nicolae’s last words, in their entirety:
    “But I thought… I thought… I did everything you asked.”

    Those are not the words of someone who was planning to die and be indwelt.

    The last words of someone planning on dying and being indwelt would go something more like this (this would belong in A World Without God):

    [Note that “fearless leader” is a codename (because if you can’t find humor in your codenames, where can you?), the narrator is so used to using it that even though there is no reason for it anymore, that’s still what he says.]

    Hello darkness, my old friend.

    The Antichrist is dead, and it brings me no joy.  I slept through the whole ordeal.  I know that it was one of the most important moments in human history.  I know that we saw it coming years ago so I can’t say I wasn’t given advanced warning.  But there’s this whole time difference thing and I was tired.

    I saw what happened anyway.  Had a vision.  The’d set up the stage for the event in a closed box of bullet proof glass.  That’s what they called it anyway, but to my eyes it seemed more like bullet resistant multilayered plastic of some kind.  Locks on the doors that were electronic and supposedly unpickable, which is impossible but they’ve never been known for their humility or honesty.

    So there was Declan, largely undisputed ruler of the world, cut off from all of humanity.  Even his security forces were left outside of the enclosure.  The perfect time for an assassination.  Sure enough, this was the time Fearless Leader chose to strike.

    He was trusted enough to get close, involved enough in the preparations to move his weapon in ahead of time, and apparently knew how to bork an electronic lock.  For three and a half years he’d been within an arm’s reach of Declan and been forced to do nothing, knowing that Declan was protected.  Occasionally having to step around the charred remains of those who tried to kill Declan too soon, reminded, he once told me, by the smell of burned flesh of why he had to stay his hand.

    He never said anything about it, but I know that sometimes he wanted to try anyway.  We’ve all had times we didn’t want to face another day, and if you’re going to die who wouldn’t want their last act to be trying to kill the Antichrist?  I assume that what stopped him was the knowledge that one day it could be done, one day Declan’s protection would lapse.

    He’d been waiting for this day, you could hear it in his voice every time he talked about a failed assassination attempt or people wanting to take more direct action.  It’s a shame it didn’t go down the way he wanted.

    Fearless got inside the safe space, Declan turned off the microphones.  He didn’t want anyone but his killer to hear what he had to say.  Some of us have visions you dumb fuck. And what he had to say was unexpected for someone facing death by katana.

    He said, “I was starting to think you’d never come.”  It wasn’t false bravado, it wasn’t a lack of understanding of what was happening.  It was calm with a hint of annoyed impatience.  Fearless Leader faltered.

    Declan was still facing the controls for the sound system.  “Come now, I’m ready.”

    My contact, my boss, my friend, was confused.  He clearly didn’t know what to think.  He tried to regain his resolve, he said, “You’re not going to talk your way out of this,” but it was less a statement of fact than a desire.  Like shouting, ‘You can’t trick me,’ when you’re not convinced the other person is lying.  His tone revealed his uncertainty.

    Declan explained, in that condescending way that he does.  “Did you think it was an accident I kept you around these last years?  Did you think it was divine providence that the only interpretation of your religion that made it passed my censors was the one that said I would die now?  Did you think it was God who arranged for you to be in a position to steal that sword from a museum?  Did you think I left the security outside this one time out of pure coincidence?  I want this.

    “A year ago, a month ago, even ten days ago I would have fought this tooth and nail.  I wasn’t ready then.  There were preparations yet to be made.  But now… oh but now I’m ready.  The world is ready.”  Can a vast network of disgusting fleshy tendrils stretching throughout the globe like a web of ick and nerve fiber be said to purr?  I think it can.  I think it can and I think it did.  I think that the network of cancerous material that’s made it’s way thorough our sewers and storm drains, that lies hidden in our walls, that grows in our infrastructure and makes it’s way through our cords and electronics and toasters heard what Declan said and responded.

    I think it knew that this was the reason it had been set to grow, this day was its purpose. And I think it knew something akin to joy and expectation.

    Declan faced my friend, opened his arms wide, and said, “Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”  No.  Just, no.  The most evil thing to crawl out of the depths of nightmares in the whole of human history should not be allowed to quote Obi Wan Kenobi.

    Fearless said, “I hate you,” and put away his sword.

    “You’re going to do it.”

    “If you want to die, kill your own damn self.”  He walked toward the door and started trying to break the covering off the lock’s electronics by bashing it with the hilt.  Probably not the best solution, but given time it was clear that either he or the security team outside, desperately trying to get in all this time, would open the door.

    “You will kill me.”

    “If you’d wanted me to do it, you shouldn’t have told me it would be helping you.”

    “Now where would the fun in that be?  You’re going to do it, and you’re going to do it knowing that it’s what I want, that it’s part of my plan.  Power is the ability to make people will what they do not wish.”

    And my friend turned back to the Antichrist.  “Only you would quote Atreus.”

    “But Atreus realized too late that it would have been all the sweeter if his brother knew what he had been doing as he did it.  I’m not that shortsighted.  When this is over I will have no regrets.  You will do it knowing what you do.  You will execute my plan.”

    And Fearless Leader turned away.  “No, I won’t.”

    “The Hebron Reeducation center.”

    And suddenly Fearless was in a state of noticeable terror.  His voice remained calm, his body did not.  The absolute stillness of the rest of him contrasted the racing of his heart, and the look in his eyes was one of purest dread.  His voice remained emotionless as he asked, “What about it?”

    “It’s nothing much, just a facility for holding the children of dissidents.  Only a few hundred children, ages ranging from 15 and a half to 21 and two months.”

    “I know that,” Fearless snapped, “What about it?”

    “You’re planning a rescue.  You’re planning to use the distraction that comes from killing me to get them all out without a single casualty.  It’s a good plan.  It will work.  If you follow the plan.  Or you could let me live, the high explosives I’ve wired throughout the reeducation center will go off, and your worthless little children will die.

    “Then I’ll find someone else to kill me and ascend to godhood later.”

    Fearless turned back to Declan, One hand on the hilt, the other on the scabbard, still unsure of what to do.

    Declan continued, “I don’t care what happens to those pathetic creatures, you can take them.  They’ll be killed along with the rest of you anyway.  But it doesn’t matter what I care about.  You care.  That’s why you’re going to do what I want now, and that’s why your side will lose in the end.

    “The explosives are wired to a heart monitor, they will go off if my heart is sti-”

    The blade didn’t quite cut through Declan’s skull, and it didn’t quite break through it.  It did something between the two.  A mess of brain and bone.

    Not long afterward, the security team finally overrode the supposedly unbeatable electronic lock.  Fearless killed three of them before he died.  I don’t think that’s bad for someone who brought a sword to a gun fight.

    The raid on the reeducation center went off without a hitch.  One could claim that Declan decided to keep his word for any number of reasons, I think it was because if what he said to Fearless Leader, now departed, he wanted my friend to know exactly what he was doing as he did it.  He wanted him to know that he had been manipulated, now exactly the extent to which he had been manipulated, and do what the manipulator wanted him to do all the same.

    And the unholy network of the earth is humming.  I think Declan’s plan, whatever it actually is, is working.

  • Alicia

    Nicolae looked wasted. His formerly full head of hair appeared sparse now. His clear, piercing eyes were bloodshot and droopy and thought it made no sense [Mac McCollum] believed he could see veins spidering across the man’s face, framing his hollow eyes.

    Carpathia’s fingers looked thin, his skin papery, his shoulders bony. It was if he had lost fifty pounds i minutes. His pale, bluish lips were parted, and his teeth and gums showed… the mouth of a dead man.

    “You must drink, Excellency!” Fortunato whined.

    “I am spent,” Carpathia said, and though Mac could barely hear him, his was clearly not the voice Mac had come to recognize. His words seemed hollow, faint, echoey, as if he spoke from a dungeon far away. “Hungry.” Carpathia said flatly. “Exhausted. Dead.”

    No doubt he meant that last as a figure of speech, but to Mac he did look dead. Were his skin any worse he could have passed for a decomposing corpse. Even his ears had lost color and appeared translucent.

    After the speech that aunursa quotes — which goes on and on for about 4 pages of solid ranting, a good chunk of which are just Satan describing himself by taking Bible quotes and putting them in the first person (“The servants of God are wrestling against MY powers and MY principalities”…), he returns to Carpathia’s body.

    “I have need of your shell again for a brief season.”

    “I am yours.” Carpathia said.

    And with that, the light disappeared and Nicolae stood, chin lifted, arrogance restored. His color returned as he button his shirt and straigthened his clothes. It was as if he had come back to life, his voice again crisp and sure.

    It’s unclear how much of that transformation was actually caused by the indwelling itself. In an earlier chapter, it is revealed that Carpathia hadn’t eaten or slept once in the three years since his ‘death’. That’s got to inflict quite a bit of damage in and of itself.

    As far as Carpathia’s receipt of Satan being “voluntary”, their relationship sounds more like Stockholm Syndrome than anything else. Considering that he needs Satan’s presence to even be able to move unaided (and also to resist the effects of three years starvation and exhaustion), it’s not like he’s free to cancel the deal and go back to his real life.

  • Except they probably don’t turn the bomb shelter into a nightclub at the end. ;-)

  • Digital communications (except for military grade stuff) would be dead, of course.  But old-fashioned rotary phones on a local exchange would still work (provided the exchange and the lines are intact) and there were still quite a few around in the mid- to late-90s when this was written.

  • These people wouldn’t know symbolism if they were hit over the head with Magritte’s pipe. ;-)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Though I maintain that there’s no excuse for calling your hero “Rhage.” Good. Lord.

    If they were a ’90s comic-book character, it would have been “RAYGE”, or similar, so it could have been worse…

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    There’s another story by Niven where they’re locating a molecular strand by carrying sausages, and when the sausage gets sliced, they spray the area with yellow paint to make it sort of visible.

    I’m not sure that the paint would actually work – you’d need a pretty thick coat of it, I would think, on something that’s that thin, but the sausage idea is probably workable.

    I think I remember that one. IIRC, they spraypainted the walls at the monowires’ anchor points, not the wires themselves, but it’s been a long time since I read it.

    Besides Niven, the first place I remember reading about monofilament weapons was one of William Gibson’s early cyberpunk works – the antagonist was a hitman with a prosthetic thumb with a weighted tip connected a spool of monofilament.  He use the weight of the thumb to whip it around and cut up one guy.

    He ended up accidentally cutting off his own hand, I believe.  Whoops.

  • Jenora Feuer

    In Schlock Mercenary, Captain Tagon has what they call a ‘Dorothy Wire’, which is a spool of monofilament inside the heel of one of his boots, and a sensor and gripper inside the other boot.  He activates the system by clicking his heels together (hence the ‘Dorothy’ name), and the wire stretches out between his feet, with a tension monitor on the spool to make sure the wire stays reasonably taut while it’s in use.  It’s a little awkward to use in combat unless you’re fairly athletic, but it’s easy to hide, simple to activate, and a lot more difficult to cut yourself on it than some other methods.

  • Apocalypse Review

    There was a Tom Swift (1990s-era) book I read that involved a monofilament wire. I wonder why such wires were so popular with science fiction authors for a while there. (<_<)

  • Anonymous

    DUUUDE!!! That would be so AWESOME!!! *headbangs*

    /90s kid

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  • The Harry Harrison novel West of Eden has the “string knife” (possibly hyphenated or a compound word), which is essentially a monomolecular blade produced by sapient reptilians who rely on specially bred animals for all their technology. Like the gun-equivalent is a highly modified lizard and the submarine is an icthyosaur with an enormous hollow fin/hump. Oh, and soldiers ride into battle on twelve-legged sauropods. Anyway, I suspect the string knife is some sort of silk-derivative whose manufacture is slightly squicky.

  • Anonymous

    I stopped at the library on the way home to get Glorious Appearing, so I
    could post the scene in question, but y’all beat me to it.

    I didn’t get that far into the books though.

    Haha, you’re not missing out.  The books get progressively worse.

    So Nicolae’s mind still exists even after indwelling — while Satan is
    at work, does Carpathia just chill out in some corner of his psyche,
    playing a game of 8-dimensional sudoku with his superego or something?

    I don’t think this is ever really explained.  Which makes me really sad as a reader, because I think the whole concept is really interesting, and I think Jenkins missed an opportunity to explore a really awesome and creepy idea.  It
    seems like he’s trying to show that even though
    Satan inhabits Carpathia’s body, Nicolae can still act on his own
    sometimes (which prompts Satan’s outburst in Glorious Appearing).  But
    it’s not very clear.  And it’s not clear either whether it was voluntary
    or what.   I always assumed it was, but Alicia’s point about Stockholm
    Syndrome makes more sense. 

    I would have loved to read about what happened during the three days
    Carpathia spent in hell, which might answer this question, although with
    the way Jenkins writes that would probably take another couple of
    books.  And he’d somehow find a way for Satan to spend most of his time
    on the phone.

  • Anonymous

    Nicolae’s last words, in their entirety: “But I thought… I thought… I did everything you asked.” 

    I don’t care how evil he was, and I don’t care how many people he
    killed–every time I read this scene, it’s like watching a puppy getting
    kicked in the face.

  • nanananana

    I pronounce it an-neur-o-sa
    Like aneurism.
    Nothing personal I just seriously suck at pronouncing words words x(
    Though I did think you were a woman.

  • You know what Jenkins managed to make me do, in the LB book series and especially in Glorious Appearing?

    Make me feel sorry for Leon Fortunato.

  • Rikalous

    @Alicia: Out of context, those quoted sections look they came from a competently written story.

  • nanananana

    Honestly I’ve only reada bit of the books and that was from random browsing through the later ones.

    And honestly from what I’ve read, I just wanna give everyone at the GC a hug.

  • Anonymous

    “Plus, Ray and Buck become much more palatable when I picture them as Captain Hammer.”

    “The hammer is my penis.”

  • (Late to the party again.)

    “A coma!”
    “Like I say, we’re a little worried about him.”

    See now, this dialogue works perfectly — if it’s filmed in front of a live studio audience. In my head, this is a scene from a Saturday Night Live skit, possibly with the Church Lady on the punch line, and it is hilarious.

    On the other hand, there’s always Vermic’s interpretation on page 1 of this thread (in terms of lyrics by The Smiths), which had me laughing until I choked.

    In any case, it only works if laughter is involved.

  • So by page 5 of the thread, what have we learned?

    1. Mommy’s all right, if unorthodox
    2. With great sharpness comes great responsibility
    3. The okapi are positioning themselves to attack DC from their stronghold in Arlington Heights.

    I feel smarter already!

  • That happens sometimes. I saw a pronoun (“she”) in one of the books that looked exactly like one I saw in an actual novel once.

  • Anonymous

    I seem to recall that there’s fanfic about {Mrs. Job}, but I can’t remember the name of the book.

    Rebecca Bradley, in The Lateral Truth:  an apostate’s Bible stories, treats the after-story from Job’s wife’s POV.  Bear in mind that when the Book of Job opens, she’s borne ten children and they’re all grown.  She’s very aware, in this story, of just what she is to God and to Job:  a child-making machine, a walking womb forced to keep bearing into her sixties and seventies until Job gets his full reward.  Because “his” children — the children she bore in her own body and gave birth to — are seen as replaceable.

    ObBruce Barnes snark:

    “Pastor Barnes is in the hospital in a coma. He’s lying at death’s door!”
    “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll pull him through.”

  • Anonymous

    Going back a few days:

    This is a small thing in the overall pile-up of terrible, but since when does Bruce go to Indonesia? Was it a mission trip of some sort? Why would Bruce “dig a big hole in the ground and crawl in with your 4 best buddies” Barnes be on a mission trip?

    Presumably Bruce was doing missionary work and converting people.  Dunno why he’d need to travel halfway across the world to preach to unbelievers, but still, this is noteworthy enough to remark upon: Bruce Barnes was doing exactly what we’ve repeatedly said should be the Trib Force’s main (perhaps only) job, saving souls.  He wasn’t in a Fifth Avenue penthouse cashing paychecks and burying stories, he was out there doing the only work that really matters.  And LaHaye and Jenkins couldn’t be less interested in showing it.  But they are very keen on showing him get sick and die for his troubles — that’s worth bringing him back, apparently.

    The lesson of Tribulation Force is that helping others gets you nothing but obscurity, followed by perfunctory illness and death, while being a self-absorbed hypocrite gets you ADVENTURE and TOP BILLING and HOT YOUNG WIVES.  And that’s why these are the Worst Books Ever Written.

  • Odd you should mention the White Man’s Burden, given the extremely large African-American and Latino population in Chicago.  Arguably, Barnes could have fulfilled the WMB in Cicero rather than Indonesia.  But then again, would such people be *worth* saving in L&J’s scenario?  How many non-white protagonists are there in this series?

  • Lori

     Odd you should mention the White Man’s Burden, given the extremely large African-American and Latino population in Chicago.  


    The White Man’s Burden attitude tends to be all about non-whites Over There. The populations of foreign lands are both condescended to and exotisized in a way that local populations rarely are. Non-whites in other countries are treated almost like children. They’re heathens living in squalor and darkness who have never heard the word of the Lord and thus can’t be held fully responsible for their state. They need both the salvation and the civilization that the great white Bible-wielder can provide. 

    Non-whites closer to home are just a problem. Taking our jobs and living off the taxes of the hard working and having too many babies. They’re often treated as the undeserving poor in a spiritual sense as much as in an economic sense. 

  • Lori

     Presumably Bruce was doing missionary work and converting people. 

    This was my assumption, but I’m honestly confused about when that happened. When did Bruce Barnes go from huddling in his office with his inner circle and digging a hole in the ground just for 4, and traveling the world to seek and save the lost? How did he become the only one of the Tribbles actually making an effort? 

    That’s a pretty major change and would require tremendous character growth on Bruce’s part. And it apparently took place off screen and is never discussed at all, really. IOW, these books suck

  • Apocalypse Review

    You know, Jenkins really should have written an early 1980s-era BBS hacking book. There’s all the ingredients he needs!

    1. Socially maladjusted misanthropes
    2. TELEPHONES! (Acoustic couplers are sexy)
    3. MODEMS! (anything to do with telephone lines is sexy)
    4. Computers!

    He missed his calling. Alas.

  • It was during the 18 months later.  Almost everything interesting to happen in these books so far happened in a few paragraphs explaining what went on during the 18 months skipped over.

    It’s mentioned that Bruce was doing things that actually made sense.  He was preaching the world over and setting up a network of … let me just quote it:

    Bruce Barnes had done his share of traveling, too. He had instituted a program of house churches, small groups that met all over the suburbs and throughout the state in anticipation of the day when the assembling of the saints would be outlawed. It wouldn’t be long. Bruce had gone all over the world, multiplying the small-group ministry, starting in Israel and seeing the ministry of the two witnesses and Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah swell to fill the largest stadiums on the globe.

    So you see, Bruce has been doing actual meaningful things.  He’s been spreading the word, he’s been planning ahead.  He’s creating an underground network of small churches set up in houses in preparation for the day when going to an actual physical church will be punishable by death.  (Though it seems to me like it would be long before that happened.  As I recall Christians are able to stay in the open for a while yet, but it has been a long time since I read the series.)

    Those house churches basically amount to resistance cells, which are being set up in advance so that when the time comes for resistance they’ll be ready instead of having to scramble to set something up.

    Bruce has been doing important and meaningful things, that was glossed over entirely and soon he’ll be dead.  We get left with Buck who has decided to eventually conduct a feasibility study on running an underground website from his cushy penthouse, and Rayford who resents having to wear a gaudy uniform while he acts as the Antichrist’s chauffeur.  Our heroes.  Yay.

    Bruce turning into an organizer, instigator and agitator isn’t the only interesting seeming thing to have happened during the timeskip.  One World Government went from something only known to Buck and Nicolae (for everyone else in the room had been mind whammied into forgetting) to the way things worked.  New Babylon was built.  One world currency was implemented.  The crime wave went even higher.  The One World Religion was becoming more popular and the idea of using force to make it mandatory is being publicly floated (mind you One World Religion pretty much implies that anyway, but still.)

    The militia prepares to make war, Fitzhugh is stupidly put in charge of disarming America, something tells me that he does an intentionally bad job at this given that he’s planning to use the not-disarmed militia to try to take back the country.  The things he has to do to get weapons to them without arousing suspicion would no doubt make an interesting story in themselves.  Glossed over entirely.

    If a one world language was implemented, it’s a fair bet it happened there as well.  And we shouldn’t forget the first births, which would have happened at the midpoint of the timeskip.  They must have been a big deal, no mention of those.

  • Lori

     It wouldn’t be long. Bruce had gone all over the world, multiplying the small-group ministry, starting in Israel and seeing the ministry of the two witnesses and Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah swell to fill the largest stadiums on the globe.  


    The idea that Bruce has become some sort of church spreading super star is making me laugh. It’s so typical of L&J to act like the salvation of the world totally depends on one of their characters, even if it is a non-POV character who is about to be killed off. It’s literally the end of time and they can’t allow anything to happen off the edge of their little created world. At the same time, their little created world is cramped and boring and useless. 

    These books are So. Awful. How can a person write something this bad without that being the goal? The mind reels. 

  • Another example of where the writers have all the elements of a really good story and neglect to use them in favor of the hack job we’re stuck with.  Your assumptions about Bruce’s story *alone* would make a worthwhile End Times novel: small town pastor who wasn’t taking his job seriously is confronted by the Rapture and decides to bring his game up several levels, only to be eliminated as a threat by the Antichrist’s minions. 

    I wonder though, given the loss of most of the congregation along with the general economic collapse the Rapture would entail, where he’s getting the funding for all his global missions work?  Is Rayford letting Barnes deadhead on the plane when Nicolae isn’t using it?  Because then Rayford might actually be doing something useful for the cause.

  • CharityB

    It’s even worse than you’re saying.

    They chose to make the salvation of the world totally depend on one of their characters… and they made him a non-POV character and forced the reader to piece together his activities based on a few unexplained throwaway lines a few pages for he’s killed off. Most self-absorbed narcissists put themselves into the center of big and exciting events; these guys fantasize about being helpless bystanders while everything important is done by someone else (Carpathia, Bruce, Jesus) off-screen.

  • Lori

     Your assumptions about Bruce’s story *alone* would make a worthwhile End Times novel: small town pastor who wasn’t taking his job seriously is confronted by the Rapture and decides to bring his game up several levels, only to be eliminated as a threat by the Antichrist’s minions.  

    Except for the bit about getting eliminated by the Big Bad, that’s the basic plot of a staggering number of books and movies. Because it’s a good story. There are a lot of ways to make it interesting because it’s relatable. You have to work to make it as lifeless as L&J did. 

  • Lori

      Most self-absorbed narcissists put themselves into the center of big and exciting events; these guys fantasize about being helpless bystanders while everything important is done by someone else (Carpathia, Bruce, Jesus) off-screen.   


    Their is something about their fantasy passivity that just works in the back of my brain, like an itch I can’t quite scratch. These are books written by gender essentialist defenders of the natural role of men and women who have cast their ostentatiously manly man heroes in their idea of the “girl” role. It’s just so weird that it makes it really difficult for me not to speculate about meta L&J trying to claw their way through. I hate that, because I think it’s generally an inappropriate way to read a book, but I can’t turn it off. 

  • These books are So. Awful. How can a person write something this bad without that being the goal? The mind reels.

    As Fred once said, it is not so much a function of their quality as snake-oil salesmen as it is they found a group of marks so eager to buy snake-oil.  

    Even if that snake-oil tastes awful and leaves you feeling worse after imbibing it.

  • IIRC, in Shadowrun, the monowhip is explicitly *not* monomolecular, but is a “monofilament”. (The marginal notes in the manual are full of hackers saying “I don’t see what the big deal is, it’s not like it’s actually monomolecular.”) Every time you use it, you have to make a saving throw against accidentally hitting yourself on the backswing.

  • Diona the Lurker

    What gets me is that Bruce can’t be the only pastor doing all this – there must be many all over the world going about doing the same things. Are they mentioned? Apparently not; we are expected to believe that only he is doing it. Is that remotely believable? But of course, we all know by now that “believability” isn’t exactly something one should expect in these books.

  • I suppose that they are “believable” enough to those who have a very narrow perspective.  Unfortunately, those steeped in RTC culture are encouraged to keep their perspective narrow… 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Every time you use it, you have to make a saving throw against accidentally hitting yourself on the backswing.

    Heh.  I remember one character commenting:  “I hate that stuff.  It’s an industrial-strength paper-cut waiting to happen.”

  • hf

    Speaking of interesting stories we don’t get to see: I’m now picturing Chaim Rozenweig as the child of Lisbeth Salander and the Dark Lord Harry.

    He’d have to be a disturbed polymath whose mind goes down some strange alleys, because nothing that he does quite makes sense. Though we could hand-wave the absurdly sharp sword. Maybe he figured religion is about faith, and instead of silver bullets or a saint’s thigh-bone he decided to have faith in lightsabers. (Even Chaim couldn’t think of a way to hide an Eva.)

  • Matri

    That’s a pretty major change and would require tremendous character growth on Bruce’s part.

    Someone did ask about character growth a few weeks back, and I did answer that every character that experienced character growth dies.

    Because L&J wants to send a message.


    You all make very good disciples.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Just then “Amanda answered a page from Chloe” and they too learn that Bruce is in a coma, in the hospital, in Arlington Heights.

    Jenkins worked for Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for many years. He’s put Bruce Barnes in an actual Chicago-area hospital — Northwest Community. This is in Arlington Heights, and Jenkins knows just where that is and the best way to drive there, either from downtown or from the airport. And he’s very excited to share this information with readers.

    We know Jenkins is from Chicago, so it’s no surprise he has Local Area Knowledge.  Note that THIS is the only accurate geography in the entire series so far, after cruise ships on the Jordan River and all-day treks across Manhattan from east to west.

    Again, this doesn’t reflect well on the best-selling GCAAT.  You can see he could have given accurate geography in his 16-volume epic if he’d only taken the trouble to research it.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    It’s also striking, but not surprising, that Buck doesn’t seem to want to *save* his family, and certainly has not forgiven them for being narrow-minded (which, what dies that mean in this context?) with charity and lovingkindness in his heart. No, he hopes someday to rub their faces in how wrong they were and how right he now is.
    — Jules

    “The important thing in the Devil’s Theology is to prove yourself absolutely right and to prove everyone else absolutely wrong.”
    — Thomas Merton, “The Moral Theology of the Devil” (searchable online)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Presumably Bruce was doing missionary work and converting people. Dunno why he’d need to travel halfway across the world to preach to unbelievers…
    — Vermic

    In RTCdom, Missionaries are one of THE Godly Prestige positions.  And “Missionaries to Darkest Africa” was always THE Prestige posting for Missionaries.  I think it’s a variation of that; Bruce making converts in a faraway Heathen land (Indonesia is almost literally on the other side of the world from Chicago) is Big Brownie Points at the Great White Throne.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    We get left with Buck who has decided to eventually conduct a feasibility study on running an underground website from his cushy penthouse, and Rayford who resents having to wear a gaudy uniform while he acts as the Antichrist’s chauffeur. Our heroes. Yay.
    — Chris the Cynic


    (You know, I’ve been reading My Little Pony fanfics until brains ooze out my ears for the past six months, and I have NEVER read Author Self-Inserts used THIS bad.  Come to think of it, some of the best of those Pony fanfics — including one about a Reluctant Antichrist (literally!) — echoed the Gospel a LOT better than this GCAAT ever did.)