Thursday, December 21, 2006

Best. Apocalypse. Ever.

Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Read by Frank Muller, Recorded Books, LLC, 2001

Introduced at the beginning of the ninth book in this series, is a new helicopter pilot, George, flying for the undercover Trib Force. Upon learning his name, I began a George Death Watch, sure he was to be our next casualty. For starters, he’s introduced too late in the series to stay with us, plus he’s a pilot, which the Trib Force go through like tissues. The Trib Force is like the A-Team in which they are in hiding, part of the underground, but they are so obvious it would take considerably less than one quarter of an FBI agent to smoke ‘em out, yet no one manages to turn the trick. If I believed in the Bible literally, I’d sure hope the Satan and his minions were this stupid too.

What’s beyond stupid, though, in this book are things like when tech genius David Hassid says that he’s put a satellite in geo-synchronous orbit over Petra, Jordan as part of the system that the believers use for communications. How precisely did David get that satellite up there? Even making the amazing leap of inference that he “took over” some other, already orbiting satellite and altered its software to his purposes, are we to believe that no one would notice this? Apparently so.

But, really, what’s one more bit of stupidity between friends, eh?

And so our big stupidity here, our title based plot point, is how we get the newly risen Satan-stuffed-Antichrist to Jerusalem so he can desecrate the temple. Well, no better way to do that than to ride in on an unclean pig, then slaughter that pig on the altar, and what would make that even more fun? To broadcast it to the whole wide world on television. No, seriously. Fresh out of Hell, this is Satan’s smooth plan to win over all the stragglers who haven’t marched right up since the last book’s conclusion to get their official Mark of the Beast. I frankly consider advertising the devil’s work, but if this is the best he’s got, perhaps someone else is in charge of Madison Avenue. Maybe Xenu?

I honestly don’t know how LaHaye and Jenkins can get up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror after foisting this tripe on their reading public, but I guess millions of dollars can buy some pretty fancy mirrors.

As a sort of pick up from where ben Judah had his visions of archangels Michael and Gabriel, Hattie Durham, our regular will-she-won’t-she slut character, in a kind of Magdalene role (a whore! a whore!), is visited by one of these angels in her hotel room. This visitation prods her to the worthwhile mission of going to Jerusalem and heckling Nicolae Carpathia from the side of the road. For this, she needed an angel? She yells at Carpathia on his mock ride into Jerusalem, and the Antichrist’s toady Leon Fortunato brings lightning down from heaven and burns her up to a crisp, thus bringing at least one major character to her end. Rayford, who’s always had a soft spot for Hattie after she gave him a hard-on back in his bad old sinning-in-his-heart days, weeps silent, bitter tears like a man, damnit.

Well, as you may guess, frying women with lightning and carving up pigs in temples doesn’t go over so well, which causes major freak outs left and right throughout the world. And it’s war, baby! I don’t know what took so long, but at least this conflict was started by something serious and not some frivolous dispute about oil rights or something. And if there’s one thing LaHaye and Jenkins loves ‘em a buncha, it’s war.

And so, the hoopla about the Left Behind video game is warranted in many respects, but the outcry demonstrates that critics haven’t read the source material. There is a seriously bloodthirsty aspect to these novels, which I kind of expect from fundamentalists who comfort themselves by damning 90% of the world’s population past and present to eternal hellfire and torment. But just precisely HOW bloodthirsty the books are, is something you have to read for yourself. Before we even get through chapter two of this latest installment, we find that the Trib Force is packing 50mm rifles with an incendiary type of round that separates upon striking soft tissue and explodes. That’ll turn some cheeks, buddy.

And despite all the gunplay, it appears the authors decided to throw in a little philosophical rumination. Because at this point, if meteors, blood filled oceans, the dead resurrected on television, and all the rest don’t convince you, a little dose of Tertullian “Credo quia absurdum” will win you over. Chaim Rosenzweig’s eventual conversion takes this route, and at one point he states “It’s absurd that I’m here right now, which is proof that God wants me to be here or else how would I be here?” And this guy used to be a scientist?

Worse still, philosophically thinking, is how regularly throughout the book, Cameron “Buck” Williams thinks along the lines of “Only God could have done this, therefore God must have done it, so the only real option was to believe in it and in God.” Apart from this logic’s overwhelming circularity, it’s also false in the world of the novel. Prior to the events occurring, only God could have raised a man from the dead, only God could call down lightning from heaven to kill people, only God this that and the other, then such things are done by the Antichrist and his minion, so, by the fundamental logic of Buck, the Antichrist should be worshipped. Does this absurd obviousness occur to him?

Do I have to ask?

Other deep thinkers in the book include Tsion ben Judah who happens to drop on his website a mention of Petra, the city where all the Trib Force is supposed to resettle in prep for the final battle, an abandoned archeological site in southern Jordan. After doing this, he actually, physically slaps his head after he “transmits” the sermon containing this bombshell. Yikes, maybe the Antichrist will find out. Strange ben Judah’s tech genius David Hassid never managed to slip an edit function into the software. Nevertheless, ben Judah’s big worry is that someone will read this and figure out what’s going on. He doesn’t actually get worried that 1 million converted Jews travelling to and walking around this old archeological site/city might attract attention. Are these some kind of Rick Moranis style honey I shrunk the Jews?

The book ends with Carpathia’s savvy public relations gambit of opening his treasury for a project to eradicate all the Jews on the planet. That old trick. This hatred for the chosen people intrigues me as a reader, because it’s clear that fundamentalists like LaHaye & Jenkins clearly don’t like Jews themselves. They have this condescension and patronization rampant on the right like Jews are their dumb younger cousins. Just wait ‘til you grow up, Hymie, they seem to be saying, patting the little Jews on their yarmulkes, then you’ll understand. The idea seems to be that Jews are good as historical types for Biblical stories, good for politics as it gives the righties a reason to work “the holy lands” angle, and lastly they’re good for tut-tutting as the religious right waits for the mass conversion to Jesus they expect from these Jews. The projection of their own attitudes onto Carpathia is a telling business. All right, enough horseshit, if you don’t worship like me, it’s curtains!

We end the book with ye olde cliffhanger which is not exciting for anyone at all for any reason. All the Jews and most of the Trib Force are in their rocky fortress of Petra and Carpathia drops bombs on them. We end with bombs in the air, literally whistling as they come down, though who really thinks they’re going to hit anything at all? Who really thinks there’ll be some death for the saved and the New Chosen People™? Please. It’s the corniest kind of ending, corny like a Saturday morning serial, but done totally straight-faced. And that’s what makes these books so comical, the unabashed outlandishness of it all, as though the authors never graduated out of the school of junior high hyperbole. That’s what makes this the Best. Ever. Totally.

And can you believe it? I completely forgot even to keep my eye firmly fixed on the George Death Watch. That's how Best Ever this corn was. And now I can't even remember. Sigh.

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