NRA: The best coffee at O’Hare

NRA: The best coffee at O’Hare June 22, 2012

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, pp. 11-17

Rayford Steele is racing to escape the chaos and random violence of the war-torn Midwest, fleeing to the safety of Iraq.

That sounds like it ought to be exciting. Particularly when you add in the fact that he’s traveling with Nicolae Carpathia, the individual epicenter of World War III. Nicolae is either the source or the target of all the perhaps-nuclear violence erupting across the world, so Rayford’s adventure here ought to be a thrilling, mile-a-minute chase scene.

Alas, the reality here is much more disappointing. Their race from airstrip to airstrip turns out to resemble — and to be just as exciting as — any other bit of cross-country air travel involving multiple connecting flights. The perhaps-nuclear disruptions of WWIII come across as no more troubling than uncooperative weather.

That’s the impression one gets when Nicolae asks for an update on the war from the walkie-talkie guard (same one, he’s still around). It seems more like he’s asking about winter snowstorms or a series of thunder storms.

Carpathia leveled his eyes at the man. “What is the news? What is happening?”

“Uh, nothing much different, sir. Lots of activity and destruction in many major cities.”

… “Is this activity largely centered in the Midwest and East Coast?” the potentate asked.

The guard nodded. “And some in the South,” he added.

“Virtually nothing on the West Coast then,” Carpathia said, more a statement than a question. … “How about Dallas/Ft. Worth?” Carpathia asked.

“DFW suffered a hit,” the guard said. “Only one major runway is still open. Nothing’s coming in, but lots of planes are heading out of there.”

Carpathia glanced at Rayford. “And the military strip nearby, where my pilot was certified on the 757?”

“I believe that’s still operational, sir,” the guard said.

So there we have it. Our itinerary is established and over the next several pages that itinerary will be followed exactly as described. Helicopter from highway to airstrip. Learjet from airstrip to airstrip near Dallas. Thus the questions that might have afforded a bit of suspense here — Will they get away? How will they get away? — are answered at the outset, deflating any tension the scene might have had.

Jerry Jenkins makes a half-hearted attempt to restore some tension with a bit of business involving Carpathia wearing a clumsy disguise. It doesn’t help.

That disguise is provided by a new character, Leon Fortunato, introduced here as “a sycophant from the New Babylon office.”

Actually, “introduced” overstates the case. Fortunato just sort of shows up without explanation or description. His few lines of dialogue here and his even fewer actions are purely functional, and we’re given no sense that he is an important character in Jenkins’ story and in Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” check list. (That sentence supplies more foreshadowing than Jenkins bothered with here.)

While failing to offer much of an introduction for the new character, Jenkins does offer one for Nicolae, a character we’ve been acquainted with for two full novels already:

The dashing young man, now in his mid-thirties, had seemingly been thrust to world leadership against his own will overnight. He had gone from being nearly an unknown in the lower house of Romanian government to president of that country, then almost immediately had displaced the secretary-general of the United Nations. After nearly two years of peace and a largely successful campaign to charm the masses following the terror-filled chaos of the global vanishings, Carpathia now faced significant opposition for the first time.

Oh, and by the way, he also established a One-World Government with a single currency, single language and single religion, abolishing the sovereignty of every nation on earth (except Israel). Jenkins doesn’t mention that.

He doesn’t think he needs to mention that because, for him, all of that is covered in the phrase “secretary-general of the United Nations.” It’s another little reminder that the plot of these books only works if you start with the fantastic assumption that the U.N. is already a one-world government and that the secretary-general is actually a global “potentate” reigning with unchecked power over a global federation of subordinate nations.

Jenkins main theme in the pages that follow is that as war and chaos have erupted, Nicolae seems to be enjoying himself:

Carpathia seemed excited, high.

… Carpathia’s eyes were ablaze, and he rubbed his hands together as if thrilled with what was going on.

… Still rubbing his hands as if he could barely contain himself. …

It seemed to Rayford that Carpathia was having trouble manufacturing a look of pain. … Carpathia’s look [was] one of satisfaction, almost glee.

With all that gleeful hand-rubbing, I’m surprised that Jenkins didn’t include a waxed mustache in Carpathia’s disguise — just so that he could be twirling the ends of it here.

Rayford is appalled by Nicolae’s excitement, but I’m happy to see our cartoon arch-villain finally behaving at least a little bit like a cartoon arch-villain should. There’s no chance that these authors are going to supply us with an Antichrist portrayed as a compelling, tragic figure whose hubris propels a rise and fall that gives us new insight into the human condition. So the best we can hope for is a cackling madman grinning at the sight of mushroom clouds. It’s about time this guy started acting like an Antichrist.

The authors here want us to share Rayford’s horror at Nicolae’s delight, but I’m far more horrified by Rayford’s response — or, rather, his non-response — to everything that’s going on around him.

Rayford’s home country is under attack, yet he has no emotional response to this. His home town is in flames, and it does not register.

Let’s try something more manageable: O’Hare International Airport. This has been Rayford’s home-base for decades in his job. He’s spent countless hours there and knows every inch of the place — every hallway and gateway, every restaurant and coffee shop.

He has a favorite coffee shop there, of course — a place he regards as not just having his favorite coffee, but as having, objectively, the best coffee in the whole airport. He takes a proprietary pride in proclaiming it “the best,” just as he does in his knowing “the best” short-cuts to avoid suburban traffic. Knowing such things made Rayford happy. And knowing himself to be someone who knows such things made him happier still.

When pilots from out of town accompanied Rayford through his airport, he delighted in correcting them and rescuing them from any other inferior coffee stand. “No,” he would say, “Come with me. I’ll show you the best coffee at O’Hare.”

That coffee shop is gone. The woman who worked behind the counter there is gone. O’Hare itself is gone. A perhaps-nuclear mushroom cloud is still hovering over where they all once were.

Yet none of this bothers Rayford. He scarcely even notices.

This basic lack of emotional response seems monstrous and we are again confronted with the chicken-and-egg question regarding the lack of empathy in these books. Is it a lack of empathy that attracts people to End Times mania? Or is such a lack of empathy something that is acquired from involving oneself in End Times mania? (My guess is that it’s both.)

Rayford’s main emotional response in these pages is due to the odd game Nicolae is playing in which he pretends, unconvincingly, not to remember Amanda’s name:

“Captain Steele!” Carpathia exalted. “Al –, uh, An–, uh, Mrs. Steele, how good to see you both and to know that you are well!”

“It’s Amanda,” Amanda said.

“Forgive me, Amanda,” Carpathia said.

Conventionally, this bit is usually a petty gesture directed toward a romantic rival. I don’t think that’s what’s intended here, but I’m not sure how else to explain this. Particularly since this hint at romantic jealousy is reinforced on the next page, in which Carpathia delights in telling Rayford about the spiffy new airplane he’s had built just for Rayford to fly:

Carpathia spoke quietly to Rayford. “The Condor 216 awaits us near Dallas. We will then fly west to go east, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ve never heard of a Condor 216,” Rayford said. “It’s unlikely I’m qualified to–”

“I have been assured,” Carpathia interrupted, “that you are more than qualified.”

“But what is a Condor 2 –”

“A hybrid I designed and named myself,” Carpathia said. “Surely you do not think what has happened here today was a surprise to me.”

“I’m learning,” Rayford said, sneaking a glance at Amanda, who appeared to be seething.

“You are learning,” Carpathia repeated, smiling broadly. “I like that. Come, let me tell you about my spectacular new aircraft as we travel.”

Is Amanda seething over the name-game business? Or is she seething over her husband and Nicolae speaking quietly about the spectacular new, fully loaded aircraft they might soon be flying together?

The Steeles don’t get to discuss this until later, as they’re running across the tarmac toward the Learjet that will take them to Dallas. Jenkins weakly hints that this might be dangerous — that Nicolae’s enemies might be lurking nearby to fire on them as they cross the runway. That’s why Nicolae is in disguise, and why they’re making the dash across the open space in groups of two.

“Rayford slipped an arm around Amanda’s waist and drew her close.” That’s not the easiest way for two people to make a run for it together — but it is the easiest way to use your wife as a human shield if anyone starts shooting at you.

“Rayford,” Amanda said, “have you ever once in your life heard Nicolae Carpathia misspeak?”


“Stutter, stammer, have to repeat a word, forget a name?”

Rayford suppressed a smile, amazed he could find anything humorous on what could easily be the last day of his life on earth.

“Besides your name, in other words?”

“He does that on purpose, and you know it,” she said.

Rayford shrugged. “You’re probably right. But with what motive?”

“I have no idea,” she said.

“Listen to yourself,” Rayford says to her. “You expect common courtesy and decency from the most evil man in the history of the universe?”

Those first three words — “listen to yourself” — seem to sum up the dynamic in Rayford and Amanda’s marriage. So does her response:

Amanda shook her head and looked away. … “I suppose I am being oversensitive.”

The authors’ intended message there is that the woman is being oversensitive. The authors’ unintended message is a subtle, but powerful bit of characterization that paints a heartbreaking portrait of a marriage — one that could never be understood by two men who think that women’s “oversensitivity” is the source of most marital problems.

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  • ohiolibrarian

     Sycophant as kingmaker? The mind boggles.

  • thatotherjean

    Perhaps Nicolae really did fumble Amanda’s name once–he has a lot on his mind, after all–and kept it up after her snide remark to Hattie because she annoyed him so.

  • aunursa

    Yes, that’s possible.  But it would require more thought about character development than Jerry Jenkins is capable of.

  • E-foster

     so its terrible for Carpathia to not be sad about hearing about deaths from afar, but it was totally fine for Rayford to casually walk past the thousands of wounded and dying people littering the runway at the airport in the first book

    and IIRC his reaction to seeing his copilots mangled corpse was “dont that just beat all”

  • Lori

    For those of you who are lucky enough to get gmc channel on your cable (I have no idea what “gmc” stands for, except that it’s not General Motors) they’re doing a LB movie marathon this afternoon. 

    I’m currently getting LB II: Tribulation Force. For the love of FSM this movie is terrible*. It’s actually worse when you see it with just the usual commercial breaks than it is when Fred posts short YouTube clips. LB III: World At War starts in an hour. I can hardly wait [eyeball]

    *How bad is it? It makes GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which is playing on another channel, look like cinematic genius. If you’ve seen GI Joe you know what a feat that is.

  • Tricksterson

    I still say it’s his way of saying “You don’t deserve my man!”

  • ohiolibrarian

     Writing as a “process of discovery” is fine. After “discovery” he needs to learn how to rewrite and edit. That’s where he falls down … badly.

  • ohiolibrarian

     So, why Condor? Dig at environmentalism?

  • ohiolibrarian

     Jenkins “secret” is to write for people who will apparently read anything that is labelled “Christian”–no matter how badly written.

    You know … marks … fools … suckers … chumps.

  • I’ve watched them all as well, and Fred’s deonstructions don’t do the craptasticness justice. That said, LB III: WaW is probably the most interesting of the lot, since they featured a black President, and on top of that introduced some nice subplots because they had a freer hand to not follow the second and third books in an exact one to one correspondence to the pages.

  • I think Jenkins and LaHaye were attempting to reach the NASCAR-segment, the kind of people who are legitimately mechanically enthusiastic and love fast cars and presumably therefore, fast, sleek aircraft. The Condor is supposed to be a swift plane especially designed for, well, a world leader, so it should be “a cut above”.

    I think Jenkins just didn’t think through how to set up the whole subplot of “Nicolae’s bored with nicking* the Prez’s AFOne, now that his new and improved plane is ready to roll.”

    * UcwutIdidthar? :P

  • “Captain Steele!” Carpthaia exulted. “Al–, uh, An–, uh, Mrs. Steele….” etc.

    Maybe Nicky Caucasus was just surprised that Ray-Ray is still pretending to like women. I’m sure he knows about the strange closeted relationship with Buck, and was so hinting that Ray-Ray *should* be with someone named Al, or Andrew, or (perhaps Cameron).

  • aunursa

    LB III: WaW is probably the most interesting of the lot, since they featured a black President, and on top of that introduced some nice subplots because they had a freer hand to not follow the second and third books in an exact one to one correspondence to the pages.

    On 15% of the reviews gave LB III a 1-star rating.  Most of those loved the LB series, and were furious that the plot of the third film deviated so greatly from the plot in the book.

    Just wanted to let everyone know before purchasing this movie that the story of this movie series is completely different than the story of the actual book series. The writers of this movie are only using the Left Behind book series as an inspiration, inputing their own ideas into the story, and changing major facts. It’s not just a little off, it’s very far off from the original story line set in the books. Check out the actual story of Left Behind by reading the books

    This movie was so bad I almost puked. Nothing followed the book at all. It seemed to jump forward on a couple of plot lines. AND (Spolier alert) THAT IS NOT HOW BRUCE DIED!

    Super great book really pulled me in. The movie take great liberties with the book and I found it to be very disappointing. I would not recommend the movie but the Books YES! YES!! YES!!!

  • histrogeek

    I think just because it’s a big bird. And it’s got a nice butch sound and it’s an American bird (unlike say albatross).

  • The other thing I was thinkjng about is that the sheer wastefulness of appropriating AFOne and then switching up to a sleek and fast personally commissioned Condor 216 could have been explored as an aspect of Nicolae’s complete lack of consideration for the world around him and his hidden vanity.

    I don’t think Jenkins succeeded there.

    On the other hand it could have been used to far better effect as a show-and-tell of Nicolae’s chessmaster thinking. By effectively using AFOne as a decoy, he could draw out Fitzhugh’s supporters while flying around on this new plane almost no-one knows about.

    And I don’t think Jenkins really drew that out as well as he could have either.

  • Jessica

     Of course they do.  But have you ever seen it done with such incompetence? It helps to have ideas of where the story is going, an *outline* if you will, so that you don’t go off on meaningless tangents.  ;-)

  • Jessica

     Too predictable how? I mean, it’s not like we don’t know we’re slogging through the worst apocalyptic dreck ever written.  Was anyone actually shocked about Nicky Appalachians being the anti-christ? They only call him the ac all up and down in the first couple book and using the number 666 was predictable? Puh-lease.

  • aunursa


  • alfgifu

    “Captain Steele!” Carpathia exalted.

    Exalted?  I know this is a picky point to make in amongst all the concentrated dreck this scene provides, but… exalted?  I would say “I think they mean ‘exulted'”, only I suspect this is a Freudian slip revealing more closely what LaJenkins really would like to say.

    Rayboy is so awesome, the Antichrist exalts him.  Constantly.  Alternatively, Nickyboy is so confused by the demonic mind-control (or if he is a demon, by the whole incarnation experience) that he’s worshipping Rayford Steele.  It makes as much sense as anything else that’s happened here…

  •  Maybe Rafe is a lark.

  • ohiolibrarian

     Am I missing something? Is there a special NASCAR-Condor connection? I only know of the Condor as a really large endangered bird living in California (liberal! Hollywood! gay!) or the Andes (furrin!). And AFAIK, the condor is neither sleek nor fast. 

    Is there some evangelical-specific Condor reference that we ought to know? Something to make it logical for Nicky to name his super-duper plane ‘The Condor’.

    Now, if he’d named it ‘The Viagra’ … /snark

    BTW, nice that apparently the entire continent of S. America has completely escaped destruction. They haven’t mentioned it yet, have they?

  • ohiolibrarian

     I’m afraid to ask how many people gave these movies 5 stars.

  • Not really. I was just thinking of the kind of people who Jenkins probably imagined would be drawn by the it’s-faster-and-sleeker-and-more-engine-ier! description of the Condor over Rafe’s not very fully loaded 757 (since Nicky and his crew can’t comprise that many people)

  • phoenix_feather

    A few days ago one of my regular customers started telling me about this ‘amazing, powerful’ movie he’d just watched, and after a few minutes I realized he was describing Left Behind III. Fred’s posts had prepared me, though. I chirped something along the lines of, “Isn’t Gordon Currie just a fantastic actor?!” and changed the subject.

    Not quite well enough, however, because about ten minutes later he suggested (very politely) that I should accept Jesus into my heart.  That was kind of awkward.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    BTW, nice that apparently the entire continent of S. America has completely escaped destruction. They haven’t mentioned it yet, have they?

    We seem to be pretty safe down here in Oceania, too. And we even have lots of white people. Score!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Super great book really pulled me in. The movie take great liberties with the book and I found it to be very disappointing. I would not recommend the movie but the Books YES! YES!! YES!!!


  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That said, LB III: WaW is probably the most interesting of the lot, since they featured a black President

    Why are there always black Presidents when the world is going to shit?

  • Münchner Kindl

    Am I missing something? Is there a special NASCAR-Condor connection? I only know of the Condor as a really large endangered bird living in California (liberal! Hollywood! gay!) or the Andes (furrin!). And AFAIK, the condor is neither sleek nor fast.

    My first association for Condor in a non-bird context is the Lufthansa (German airline), which has a daughter company called Condor, and a stylized bird logo which supposedly represents a condor.

    Turns out there are other air companies called Condor as well as some special plane types

  • Münchner Kindl

    and a stylized bird logo which supposedly represents a condor.

    Ups. Sorry, that was a mistake: the logo of Lufthansa represents a Crane bird (Kranich).

    Still, Condor airline and Lufthansa connect together for me as “Airline company”.

  • Phoenix

    My favorite* part of the prequels was the way that cell phones simply sprang into existence.  They didn’t exist when Left Behind was written but they DID exist when The Regime was written so, you know, OBVIOUSLY they appear in The Regime even though it says on the f’ing cover that The Regime occurs “BEFORE THEY WERE LEFT BEHIND.” 

    And oh btw the Left Behind story itself would have been quite different with the addition of an element like cell phones.  But that’s just CRAZY TALK…

    *Very relative term.

  • Tricksterson

    Thing is there were cellphones in the mid Nineties,

    I would say the second from the left in the picture is about right.

    It’s just that L&J are consistently about fifty years behind the times in their thinking.

  • aunursa

    Actually, the characters did use their “cellular phones” in later chapters of the original Left Behind edition.

    In the LB repackaged editions that were published last year, some of the details were updated.  Marks were changed to euros, cellular changed to cell, and it was explained in more detail why cell phones were unavailable in the immediate aftermath of the disappearances (cell phone networks were overloaded.)

  • hapax


    I would not recommend the movie but the Books YES! YES!! YES!!!

    first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could
    feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes
    I said yes I will Yes.

  • Tonio

     Good pull. Now I have the creepy suspicion that there is actually LB fanfiction.

  • EllieMurasaki

  • Tonio

     Out of the most morbid of curiosity, I searched for the M-rated stuff, and the first link was a Nicolae/Buck slash, “Left in the Behind.” I hope that was written as a joke. (Many of the books in all categories list names of characters I don’t recognize.)

  • Tonio

     And I say that as someone who’s actually written two pieces of fanfiction.

  • Joe Smith

     It says “Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast. ” That implies that the number will be hidden, and will require understanding.

  • There’s also Leon/Nicolae slash.