EoA: Looming Disaster

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 15-19 (Chapter Three)

I left you all at the end of the “physical description” phase of this chapter. Immediately afterwards, we start moving to the “something’s not right here” part of the chapter:

“The two of them crossed Broadway, underneath the brazen illumination of the giant three-hundred-foot-high LED screens, neon signs, and flashing JumboTrons of Times Square. Abigail and Deborah were almost to the island in the middle of the street that housed the large glass-encased TKTS discount tickets booth. They would have to get off of Broadway to find a cab. For many years traffic had been banned from Times Square, so Abigail and Deborah were about to head to a side street to hail a taxi.

But just then they heard the awful sound. A sickening metallic crash.

Abigail and Deborah quickly whipped their heads around. A cab had just smashed into a vendor’s hot dog cart.

Abigail was stunned. What’s a cab doing in Times Square?”

We see other car crashes, other strange events. And in the midst of this chapter – the phone porn. 😛

As readers of Fred Clark’s Left Behind blog will know, a great deal is made out of how LaHaye and Jenkins describe in exquisite detail every aspect of telephone usage, even down to needing two phone lines in a 1990s-era book when you had to have one dedicated line for the fax machine and your computer’s modem.

While at the time it was attributed to Jenkins rather than LaHaye this tendency to beat people over the head with telephone gadgetry, I am starting to suspect either Jenkins’s style rubbed off on LaHaye, or LaHaye has his own telephone obsession.

“Suddenly cell phones started to ring all around her. For a moment it was as if the world encompassed in that twenty blocks of Times Square had stopped to answer the same communal phone call. Abigail had her cell with her, but it was turned off on purpose. She cherished her alone-time with Deborah. […]

Abigail grabbed for her Allfone, the new generation multifunctional cell phone, to turn it on. Every person around her with a cell phone, as if on cue, was moving now–some running, others crying, some screaming wildly. Everyone else simply stood there with bewildered faces.

Abigail punched the speed dial for her husband. By then Joshua would be up in the chopper high over Manhattan, heading to his office.”

See? Can’t have a LaHaye book without telecommunications gadgetry. 🙂

The chaos continues, as we see here:

“Abigail could not imagine what chaos had just been loosed. Cars and buses were colliding, creating bottlenecks, forcing more people to spill onto the streets on foot. Subway entrances were jammed with people trying to escape the mayhem above ground. People pushed and shoved, knocking others to the pavement in a mad exodus to nowhere. The plate-glass window at the empty Nike store was shattered by looters who had already grabbed overpriced shoes, jerseys, and anything else they could get their hands on.”

We then get the first inkling of what this is all about from some rather nice foreboding foreshadowing:

“Deborah was circling around helplessly, watching, and shaking her head. ‘We’ve got to do something…’

But Abigail’s mind was whirling. She shouted back. ‘Have to figure out where it’s safe. Where the danger is…’

Just then she noticed people looking up at the sky, mesmerized, as if waiting for something beyond their control, something catastrophic to fall on them.”

And sure enough, the awful truth dawns on us:

“Then Abigail saw it. She pointed down the street to a giant ribbon of digital text wrapping around a building. The breaking news headline scrolling high above Times Square was too outrageous to make sense of. Then it sank in. The digital words were announcing a headline that was too horrible to comprehend:

TWO NUCLEAR WARHEADS HAVE BEEN LAUNCHED FROM A N. KOREAN SHIP OFF THE COAST OF GREENLAND…TARGET: MANHATTAN

But maybe, just maybe there’s hope! We learn Abigail is privy to something on which the book will end up pivoting on, if the blurb on the back cover is any indication.

“Deborah shouted, ‘Got to find a bomb shelter…’

Abigail grabbed her hand. ‘Stay with me. Let’s run to the Crowne Plaza. Maybe they’ve got a basement level…’

The two women began to sprint together across Broadway toward the hotel. A human flood of screaming pedestrians were scattering in all directions.

Deborah yelled as they ran, ‘The sign said nukes. Nukes, Mom! A basement won’t save us. We’re ground zero!’

‘Maybe they’re wrong. Maybe they’re not nukes.’

‘But what if they are?’

They were at a full sprint now, blowing through the chaotic crowds. But Abigail knew something that even Deborah didn’t know. A few details about her husband’s top-secret project. Joshua ought to be very close to his office by now. His R&D team was supposed to be waiting for him. Maybe. Just maybe…

Abigail yelled over to her daughter as they were locked into matching strides, ‘If they’re nukes, we have to pray that Dad can stop them…’

‘Dad?’

Without breaking her stride, Abigail started to pray. Tears were starting to come. But it didn’t stop her voice as she shouted out a prayer.

‘Heavenly Father, oh, please, God, please save us…and help Josh…help him, Lord!'”

And on that cliffhanger, we end.

I have to say, inasmuch as we already know the target of the nukes, it’s still a very good action-y sequence here. The only complaint I have, mechanically, is that there are too few exclamation marks used in a situation that should be a lot louder and crazier than the dialog mechanics would suggest – since the characters shout, but tend to trail off rather than sharply exclaim.

Also, we get some call-outs to the religious audience of this book; Abigail lets loose the obligatory prayer of watchfulness even as she scrambles to find a shelter, somewhere.

So that was a quick overview of the impending disaster. Next installment, we meet… Joshua Jordan. And yes, the Allfone makes another appearance in even more intimate form than we get in this chapter.

The two of them crossed Broadway, underneath the brazen illumination of the giant three-hundred-foot-high LED screens, neon signs, and flashing JumboTrons of Times Square. Abigail and Deborah were almost to the island in the middle of the street that housed the large glass-encased TKTS discount tickets booth. They would have to get off of Broadway to find a cab. For many years traffic had been banned from Times Square, so Abigail and Deborah were about to head to a side street to hail a taxi.

But just then they heard the awful sound. A sickening metallic crash.

Abigail and Deborah quickly whipped their heads around. A cab had just smashed into a vendor’s hot dog cart.

Abigail was stunned. What’s a cab doing in Times Square?

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EoA: Meet the Protagonists

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 14-15 (Chapter Three)

We finally get a look at the protagonist, Joshua Jordan, but indirectly by means of his wife and daughter, who are Abigail and Deborah Jordan, respectively.

Now, while I’m not much chop on the exact significance of the North Korean names chosen for chapter two, it’s worth examining the choices made here for Joshua’s wife and daughter. Taking his daughter first, Deborah, we find that it is derived from the Bible, being ultimately related to the Hebrew Dvora/Dabora. So again, the theme of Biblicality runs through the naming of the “good guys” – it’s a shout-out by LaHaye and Parshall that Joshua and his family are the ones to root for.

Seems like this book might be aimed at the same kind of audience as Left Behind; them that got the product are encouraged to feel good about having it. We’ll see if appeals to male vanity and RTC* vanity are as bad as in the Left Behind and Babylon Rising books.

Taking up the choice of “Abigail” for Joshua’s wife – well, sure enough, it is also Biblically derived, originating from Avigayil/Abigayil. Mark one more down for the good guy column.

It beats picking names out of 1950s-era baby-name books or porno movies, though.

So, what are these two ladies doing in the chapter?

“There was one unusual thing about that night for Abigail Jordan. At long last she and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Deborah, had managed to book tickets for an opera at the Met. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Abigail tried to arm-twist her husband, Joshua, into going, but she had to laugh at the improbability of that.”

So. We don’t know Abigail’s age (even Irene gets an age, of forty), but we do know Deborah’s. How close her story will parallel Chloe’s of Left Behind, we shall see.

So where’s Joshua?

“Besides, Joshua was scheduled to fly back to New York from a meeting with some military brass in Washington. He was taking the shuttle to JFK and would then, in his private helicopter, go directly to his Manhattan office to do some late-night work with his research and development team.”

Hard-working guy. I’m reminded of Walter Groteschele, who lived in New York and regularly flew to Washington, DC for conferences in Fail-Safe. At least Groteschele had either a standard government jet ferry him around, or he flew commercial.

Joshua Jordan, however, gets a private helicopter. This is evocative of wheeling-dealing corporate CEOs who have these kinds of luxuries to let them escape the traffic jams that plague the common people who have to use cars.

I may be reading too much into this, but it seems like LaHaye and Parshall are falling into some of the same patterns as LaHaye and Jenkins: giving their characters charmed and special lifestyles that come with being the favored ones, even if they don’t know that yet.

So what picture can we draw of the Jordan family? Joshua is a highly-placed man with contacts in the US government as well as maintaining a separate private-sector research lab of some kind. Oddly enough, this probably is realistic if he’s a highly-paid consultant, especially given the revolving-door syndrome and the weakening of the Chinese walls that used to separate government and the private sector, especially in areas of military spending.

Abigail is his fortunate wife, and Deborah the stellar daughter. Presumably they don’t work. And I’d guess that Joshua spends a lot of time on the go and not so much at home.

“Still, Abigail had applied her powers of persuasion. Clever arguments came easy for her. She’d been trained as a lawyer. ‘Look, Josh,’ she’d said to him on her cell phone earlier, ‘I know you don’t like the opera, but Madame Butterfly is actually a story about a lieutenant in the Navy who has this conflict–‘ Her husband chuckled and cut her off. He even managed to say it with a straight face: ‘Navy? You got to be kidding. Abby, honey, even if I didn’t have to work late, let’s remember that I retired from active duty as a colonel in the Air Force. The Air Force. Sitting through an opera about a sailor, hey, that’d be a betrayal to all my flying buddies…’ “

(Ed. note: Bolded words are my emphasis. Italics are in the original text)

So we learn that Joshua used to be a flyboy. And we learn that Abigail was “trained” as a lawyer. So she doesn’t practice law presently – this further reinforces aspects of gender roles that seem to be common to Left Behind and Babylon Rising, which emphasize that the man is the breadwinner and the wife and children are at best, helpers of his success or at worst, mere appendages, present solely as a testament to his power to fit into the accepted cultural construct of the Successful Man.

Another egregious aspect of gender roles come into play here. Let us consider the bolded phrase again. By claiming Abigail has a legal education, LaHaye and Parshall are having us assume she has carefully honed her skills at presenting valid points, making her case – in short, doing things lawyers in courts do to try and convince judges and juries that the facts as presented either support or do not support the plaintiff’s/prosecution’s case on the balance of probabilities (or reasonable doubt, in criminal cases).

Yet Abigail is a woman. And as a woman, just as in Left Behind, she is to be fundamentally secondary to men in apparent intelligence. Just as Rayford Steele can patronizingly lecture Hattie Durham about his religious conversion by waving his Male Hand of Silence at her, just as Buck Williams can have his gleeful one-up on Chloe when she discovers she made an erroneous assumption about his married status, so too can Joshua Jordan patronizingly tell his wife she got a basic fact wrong about his military interests.

Never mind that she’s been married to the man for at least nineteen years, had a legal education, would know that he would only be interested in plays or shows that might appeal to him as an Air Force guy.

Can’t have that. She’s got to heartily make her “clever argument”, and get gently swatted back by her man.

Maybe I’m over-reading this, but given the level of grossly egregious misogyny I’ve been seeing in the other book series produced under LaHaye’s aegis, I can’t help but read that above paragraph not as an innocent mistake by a woman who’s seen maybe far too little of her husband in recent weeks, but as a purposely constructed reinforcement of the “silly woman” who has to be “put in her place” by a man.

And just as, in Left Behind, Hattie Durham is portrayed as a clueless dimbulb who plays a transparently obvious prank involving reporting Rayford for alleged religious harrassment, through which his Manly Brain immediately cuts to the truth, we have this sentence after that paragraph:

“She’d tried not to laugh at his sly comeback, but it was hard.”

So his comeback is “sly”, as opposed to, like normal people might think, patently patronizing. Thus, Abigail is the legal airhead who can’t remember her hubby likes the Air Force, and her function is to giggle and laugh at anything he says, because Manly Comebacks are Funny.

More on Deborah. She’s at West Point.

“A cadet at West Point, Deborah was heading for a career in the military. Yet Abigail was delighted that she still loved girly things. A good love story, even in Italian, would be right up their alley.”

Girly things. God. What on Earth is this?

If I wasn’t convinced that Edge of Apocalypse is also aimed at RTCs, this would probably about cement that conviction. The sexually dimorphic gender roles just keep getting hammered at again and again on this one page.

Surprise! We get some physical appearances! LaHaye and Jenkins were pretty bad about not doing this.

“[Deborah] had Joshua’s dark, penetrating eyes and a softer, pretty version of his square-jawed face. Like her mother, Deborah was tall, thin, and athletic.”

So we get mother, father and daughter’s physical traits all in one go. Impressive, that.

I’m going to stop here as the paragraphs just after this segue into the more action-oriented material and I’ll want to do a rather brief presentation of that and move into chapter four.


* RTC = “Real True Christian”, an acronym devised by Fred Clark to describe those among evangelical and fundamentalist sects who feel themselves to be the “worthy Christians” by reason of self-perceived righteousness.

EoA: A Glimpse of North Korea

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 8-13 (Chapter Two)

So, to make up for my delay, I’m going to do all of Chapter 2 in one go. This chapter features Captain Han Suk, who is the commanding officer of the Daedong, a “missile launcher” as the book calls it.

Han Suk appears to be the token Conscientious Objector type often featured in spy-thriller type books in which there would be the One Good Soviet Man/Woman, a person who might have issues with his or her home country, ranging from very mild disloyal thoughts about the state of affairs all the way to full-out ideological opposition.

“The nation’s prestige as an international military power soared. After all, the imperial American menace would soon be cowed by the sight of dozens of ships along their coastlines flying the red star of North Korea.

That was the glorious future as Captain Han Suk saw it […]

Still, he had reservations. Reservations he would never raise to any of his superiors, reservations he allowed himself to consider only in the few moments he had to himself, between sleep and duty.”

The captain goes on to muse upon problems with the ship he’s on:

“The captain had been able to catalogue some of the ship’s shortcomings. Most pressing of which were its communication systems … [f]rom the moment the ship had entered the Atlantic, the Americans had been jamming its radar.

All this the captain kept to himself. It was his duty to honor the flag of his beloved North Korea and to bring glory to his grateful nation and leader. It was especially important since Supreme Naval Commander Admiral Sun Tak Jeong was himself on board, to report, firsthand, on the glorious news of their triumphant voyage.”

Some quick nitpicks before I continue:

Entered the Atlantic? North Korea’s geographic positioning would make it far easier to send the ship across the Pacific. Not to mention I’ve no idea how much fuel the ship could be carrying to make a voyage all the way around South Africa (or through the Suez Canal and out the Mediterranean past Gibraltar), or for that matter, what about provisions? And reprovisioning/refuelling? There are very few countries actively friendly with North Korea, though I suppose at least one oil-producing country might cut the North Koreans a break.

We’ll see as we keep reading that it’s pretty likely that neither LaHaye or Parshall have really researched much in the way of militaries around the world.

The admiral turns out to be on the bridge at an unexpected time, and the captain feels the imminent foreboding of an unpleasant turn of events:

“‘Captain, we received a coded message.’ The admiral held out a slip of paper for him to read. The text was brief but chilling:

2 KPA jets ambushed and shot down over sovereign Northern territory by overwhelming American occupying air forces. No provocation. No warning. Missiles launched…

‘Why wasn’t I told of this immediately?’

‘Because I received it first,’ enunciated the admiral. The implications were clear. He scanned his men for a hint of betrayal. No one met his gaze.

So the admiral is asserting his authority, and the captain realizes they are in a potential war situation. A point to note here is that for some reason LaHaye and Parshall seem to be writing the captain and admiral as though they were equals, rather than as superior officer to subordinate. This may just be my perception, however.

“‘The message said, ‘Missiles launched,” the admiral barked, making sure his meaning wasn’t lost on anyone in the room, especially the captain.

‘The message was interrupted, sir; we can’t just leap to conclusions.’

‘The interruption wasn’t here, Captain; it was in Pyongyang.’

The captain felt a sting of rage, blindsided, as he turned to his XO. The XO blurted out, ‘I don’t know, sir; we cannot confirm one way or the other yet.’

‘Then get me a confirmation!’

‘We don’t need a confirmation, Captain; we need to act.’

‘We are acting, sir.’

‘Like cowards with our tails between our legs!’ The admiral’s words echoed through the bridge.”

The dearth of dialog tags also makes it a little confusing to tell who’s talking. Again, maybe it’s just me but why is the Captain talking to his XO and effectively ignoring the Admiral? I’m not much chop on military courtesy when differing ranks of people are in the same room, so I don’t know if it’s considered acceptable for subordinates to do this kind of thing with sub-subordinates, as it were.

The situation further escalates.

“‘Do you have an order, sir?’ Han Suk retorted.

‘Do you need an order, Captain?’ The captain remained silent. The admiral quickly turned to the firing officer. ‘Then here’s an order. Proceed to commence prelaunch procedures…’

‘Admiral?’ shouted the captain.

The admiral continued, ‘I will transmit the nuclear authorization code–‘

‘Admiral!’ The captain’s voice was steadily rising.

The admiral snapped open a hard plastic stick revealing a coded set of numbers, then turned coldly to the captain. ‘I need your key, sir.’

The captain stepped back.

‘That is an order, Captain.’

The captain continued to back away.

The admiral turned to the XO and said, ‘Give me your firearm.’

The XO hesitated.”

And yes, the Admiral does perform a summary execution when the Captain refuses to yield the key for the nuclear launch.

That having been said, while the intent of this chapter is to tap into cultural viewpoints regarding the supposed venality and lack of honorable behavior among the North Koreans (there is an obvious unstated, “We would never do such a thing!” tone to this chapter), the fact is that the Captain repeatedly questioned his commanding officer and acted in an insubordinate fashion. Even Western militaries would have given the Admiral perfect legal grounds to have the Captain escorted to the brig pending a court-martial for refusal to obey orders.

It is only because we instinctively take the Captain’s side – that the launch of nuclear weapons seems to be a hasty, unprovoked, disproportionate response – that we can ignore his breach of discipline in the service of a greater good.

And, to be fair, movies like Crimson Tide are popular for also giving us sympathetic American military officers who understandably hesitate to unleach nuclear weapons without clear and direct orders to do so. But let’s not confuse ourselves: disobeying orders in the military is serious business.

The admiral stared out at the sea for a moment, then smiled with an air of manufactured confidence. ‘They’ll write stories about us someday.’ He turned slowly to the XO and nodded. ‘The ship is yours now, Captain. Make us proud.’

I don’t know if LaHaye and Parshall intended this but they make this North Korean vessel sound like it’s being run like a Klingon warship.

Finally, we learn of the destination, ending on a cliffhanger:

“The voice on the other end of the phone didn’t let him finish. ‘General, we have a status red, repeat, a confirmed status red.’

The general’s body shot up in his chair. ‘What and where!?’

‘Two birds incoming, U.S. East Coast,’ intoned the voice on the phone.

‘Specify!’ roared the General. ‘Where?!’

‘New York City.'”

And that’s the end of that chapter.

As I mentioned previously, there are some shades of Red Dawn peeking back in here, in the form of a sympathetic “objector” type who questions some of the things he’s seen, and acts on his human instincts, rather than his military ones, when a situation arises which could result in the deaths of innocents (in the Red Dawn movie, the Cuban officer refuses to shoot one of the teenage protagonists, urging him to disappear instead), or at least quasi-innocents.

We’ll see that chapter 3 involves a pretty massive POV shift and a fairly infodumpy catch-up on the erstwhile main hero of the book, Joshua Jordan. I’ll take that up soon.

EoA: Prelude to International Tensions

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 2-7 (Chapter One)

There is a scene cut to the command center for spy planes:

“‘HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, over … HQ Foxfire, this is Looking Glass, do you read me, over.’ The voice of Captain Louder crackled over the speakers in the Tactical Communications Bunker at Osan Air Base, just forty-eight miles south of the DMZ.”

This sets the stage for Wing Commander Charles Stamper (a well-chosen name, incidentally, evoking a military air) noting that there are strict orders to maintain radio silence.

Amidst his chewing of Nicorette gum, we hear variations of this radio message, leading up to the following:

“Commander Stamper bit his tongue accidentally. The orders were explicit. No radio contact with planes over the DMZ. But he knew Captain Louder personally, probably owed him a few bucks from a poker game or two, and he knew he wouldn’t break radio silence unless he had to. He also knew the captain wouldn’t want to give out too much information over the radio. They both knew that the North Korean military, known as the Korean People’s Army, or the KPA, was always listening, looking to turn every situation to their advantage. But still. Captain Louder was listening to music in the cockpit. Country music. Was that code for something? He wracked his brain but came up with nothing.”

While the tongue biting thing probably sounded nice in LaHaye and Parshall’s initial write-up it seems to not add much verisimilitude.

I’m also surprised that the US military doesn’t have various procedures in place to deal with officers who break radio silence during intelligence/surveillance missions. Surely they have some kind of coded message/response system? Like “An eagle flew past me at 230 degrees” or some nonsense message which actually means, “HELP  I NEED TO LAND SOMEWHERE BECAUSE MY ENGINES ALL FAILED NOW DAMN IT”?

Also, sending that message three times? Captain Louder has probably sent enough messages to allow the KPA to triangulate his position with some margin of error, and send planes in for the kill. A single point flashing would only give a location in space. Three gives distances, times, and approximate velocities.

I feel like maybe I’m being excessively nitpicky and that I could be totally wrong and these sorts of scenes are routine phenomena in the real-world military. But surely the more often you send a distress signal in hostile territory, the more chances you give someone else to find you?

“‘Give them a couple clicks of the hand mic to let them know we heard.’ The commander turned to his flight officer. ‘Send up a couple fighters to check it out. Tell them to stay high and out of sight. Make visual contact if they can, but no radio under any circumstances.’

He’d picked a bad week to give up smoking.”

The microphone clicking thing makes sense, but would the crew on the disabled airplane hear it? It doesn’t look like they do, as we see on the next page.

“Captain Louder knew from the silence on the radio that he was on his own–at least until he cleared the DMZ. His flight plan called for him to stay on this heading until he reached international waters over the Sea of Japan, but he didn’t think his plane had enough in her to get that far. Whatever had attacked the electronics had done a number on the systems. Nothing was responding. It was like being back in an old T-2 Buckeye trainer where muscle and moxie were as important as avionics. Strictly stick-and-rudder stuff now.”

The captain decides to glide the plane in, but unfortunately:

“Captain Louder saw them first–two North Korean fighters coming directly out of the rising sun at Mach 2.

‘We got company, and they don’t look happy to see us.’

The two North Korean birds streaked past and started a long loop to maneuver behind the crippled American plane.”

The crew detects that the North Korean planes have gotten a radar fix and are launching missiles. They launch countermeasures to attempt to redirect the missiles, then Louder drops altitude as fast as he can, then tries something:

“‘Shutting down engines!’ It was a highly risky maneuver–he may never get them started again–but he was running out of options.

‘Just a few more seconds…’ The captain wrenched back on the rudder trying to pull the plane out of its headlong nosedive. ‘I need some flaps; I need power!'”

Literary nitpick: I don’t like it when stories use the word “may” when it would be far preferable to use “might”, especially when the narrative tense used is not the present.

Unfortunately, the plane is damaged during the shutdown-and-restart: one engine is now on fire, and they must evacuate.

“‘How’s our altitude?’

‘We’re not going straight down anymore, if that’s what you mean, sir,’ said Lieutenant Milius with his characteristic dry West Texas drawl. ‘I guess that’s a plus, sir.’

Captain Louder looked at his crew. All eyes were on him waiting for inspiration. But he had none to give. He’d never lost a plane before, and he wasn’t too happy about the prospect of losing this one.”

They hit upon the plan of using a HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) to try and attack the jamming station, and here we switch to the flyers of the other American aircraft.

“‘Mayday! Mayday!’ Captain Louder’s voice crackled over the Navy fighter jets’ radios; then one, two, three parachutes blossomed out from the cockpit of the crippled Prowler and floated slowly to earth.

Half a mile away, the fighter pilots looked at each other over the narrow space of air that separated their two Lightning Stealth fighters. Where was the fourth parachute? Where was the pilot?”

Then, right after that, they see the North Korean MiGs and destroy them. Captain Louder, in the last part of this chapter, launches the HARM then ejects, seeing his plane crash somewhere.

Obviously, this chapter is intended to set the stage for the upcoming international conflict: other such wars and battles have no doubt started this way. So points for that.

However, I’m not sure how real-life it is for fighter pilots to be able to look at each other at wingtip distance and make out expressions. Also, why did Capt. Louder not give the Mayday distress signal well before he actually did? There are one or two prior occasions on which he could have given it, especially since once they visually encountered the North Korean fighters there was no reason to observe radio silence.

A few other incongruities no doubt will pop up for those who have read the book and/or the excerpts I have quoted here.

As far as the overall literary sense of this goes, it’s definitely more gripping than the Left Behind initial pages, which had more implausible reactions among the focus characters.

North Korea as international villain of the day isn’t a bad idea. In the old days it would have been the Soviet Union, of course, or in the 1990s perhaps a shadowy cabal of international terrorists.

Definitely today’s headlines. 🙂

Not much to say in the way of other commentary, but after the initial business with the names, the only real things to comment on is how realistic things feel.

A final note: I’ve found the setting to disable me needing to moderate all comments. I still reserve the right to delete any offensive and/or spam comments. Cheers!

EoA: At Least It’s Not a 747

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 1-2 (Chapter One)

I am consciously adopting, in part, the format Fred Clark likes to use for reviewing the Left Behind books.

Let’s start with the name of the protagonist: Joshua Jordan. I think it’s worth spending a bit of time on names, as JK Rowling has used meaningful names in her books, and indeed literary analysis of such books as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Lord of the Flies, and so on has partly centered on the importance of names in the books. For example, Winston Smith’s name is often remarked upon as likely being a deliberate choice by Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) to evoke the most famous name of his era, Winston Churchill the war hero Prime Minister, and the Everyman name in Anglo-culture countries, Smith.

In Lord of the Flies, of the major characters, only the primary antagonist, Jack Merridew, is ever given two names. All the other boys, except for Percival Wemys Madison (a very minor character), including the major protagonist, Ralph, have but one name. Again, very suggestive of the importance Jack will take on as the leader of boys-reverted-to-barbarism.

So, back to Joshua Jordan. Can there be a more Biblically evocative name than this? Except for perhaps Jesus, which would be more likely to show up in Hispanic populations, I really can’t think of any.

Joshua is well-known as a Biblical character of some importance, primarily because of that episode with the trumpets. Jordan is often referenced as well in the Bible.

However, the book, as much as the back cover might imply, does not start out with a focus on Joshua Jordan at all. I’ll let the first paragraph speak for itself:

“At twelve thousand feet, alarm bells started going off all over the cockpit of the Navy EA-6B Prowler. At first Captain Louder thought they’d run into a flock of birds, but they were much too high up.”

Well, at least it ain’t a fully-loaded 747.

Captain Louder. I think the less I say about that name the better, because it walks, talks, and quacks like a cliche. Especially given that Rayford Steele also sounded like a name made up from a porno movie.

We discover quickly that some sort of strange electrical problem has occurred: on-board computers are down, avionics are also no good, navigation — basically, everything that gives status reports has ceased working correctly.

The engines themselves appear to be operational.

The subordinate characters are named Emmit Wilson and Jim Stewart, considerably more prosaic names than the unfortunate Captain Louder.

“Though the crew was good at their jobs, they were young, and the person they usually looked to for answers was Captain Louder.”

Aside from the minor grammar quibble I might have, this paragraph seems to be the first indication that the book is intended for an audience in which hierarchical lines of command are clearly drawn and to some extent age = seniority in command. This is analogous to how Rayford, almost by default, becomes the leader of the Tribulation Force. The only real challengers, Bruce Barnes and Buck Williams, either die off-screen (Bruce), or become shuffled into a subordinate role (Buck marries Chloe and so effectively takes the “son” role to Rayford’s “father” role).

So. Captain Louder’s the boss and people look up to him. Moving on.

We find out that the Prowler is a spy plane and that the crew are worried about possibly having been hit with an electromagnetic discharge (an EMP weapon is most likely in that event), and they’re flying over North Korea.

One more crew member is introduced in the final part of the first scene:

“‘Or else the radio’s dead, too. Anything still work on this plane?’

The youngest of the three ECMOs*, Lieutenant Derrick Milius, a pimply-faced twenty-one-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, shyly pulled an iPod out of his shirt pocket. He plugged it into the aircraft’s intercom. The twangy strains of Hank Williams Jr. filled the cockpit.

‘A little inspiration, sir.'”

* Ed. note: Electronic Counter-Measure Officers – not defined in the text of the book, but I looked it up.

I’m really not sure what to say about that last part. It’s sort of plausible, but I really have no idea if you can even hook an iPod into an intercom like that, let alone whether regulations would even allow carrying things like that on an intelligence mission.

That name – “Milius” – is rather telling, in my view. A rather well-known cult classic, called Red Dawn, a movie which is about a Cuban/Soviet invasion of North America, is particularly notable for being fan-service to gun owners. The basic theme is patriotic young men who still have guns become partisans and fight back against the occupiers. It was directed by a guy named John Milius.

I think there are some parallels LaHaye and Parshall are trying to touch on, one of them being the motif of the brave Christians fighting back against their imagined oppressors (when in reality they still form a sizable, and powerful, voting bloc in the USA) by analogy to the far-more-realistic Soviet-invasion film. It is worth noting that the movie takes a fairly (by 1980s standards) egalitarian view of gender roles (a girl refuses to wash a guy’s dinner plate), and also portrays the Cuban occupation commander as a man who questions the usefulness and effectiveness of the mission he’s on, after having been stationed in Colorado for several months.

We’ll see later on that there is a similar character mentioned in the book.

So, a gentle introduction to the book on my first actual reading-the-book post. I’ll try to start taking bigger chunks as we dive in further. 🙂

Edit to add:

I forgot to mention that the ‘pimply-faced twenty-one-year-old’ called to mind another Pimply-Faced Youth (PFY) of moderate internet fame.

First Impressions

So, courtesy of ShifterCat on TypePad, I have obtained the book Edge of Apocalypse.

It’s a softcover edition, and is about an inch thick. Here’s the front cover, as shown in the image below:

Edge of Apocalypse Book Cover

Not bad.

The back cover reads, in part:

“Joshua Jordan, former U.S. spy-plane hero turned weapons designer, creates the world’s most sophisticated missile defense system, a laser shield code-named Return to Sender […]

With help from a group of powerfully connected Christian leaders known as The Patriots, Jordan works to save the nation from economic and moral collapse […]”

The full image is below:

Back cover of Edge of Apocalypse

The publisher is Zondervan, and in fact a quick Google search reveals a news release breathlessly putting forth bumpf like the following:

“Zondervan, a world leader in Christian communications, has signed an agreement with attorney Craig Parshall and Tim LaHaye, creator and co-author of the world renowned Left Behind series. Three years after the success of the Left Behind final installment, LaHaye returns to publish Edge of Apocalypse, an apocalyptic epic infused with political intrigue ripped from today’s headlines, the first book in a new series called The End.”

In addition, it promises that this series shall be “more innovative” than Left Behind.

Okay. I could live with that.

Let’s see if it turns out to be true.

As fans of Fred Clark’s Review and Analysis well know, it has been established to an almost painful extent that Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (mostly Jenkins) simply do not know how to write believable characters or believable tales about those characters.

From gravely abusing the romance-comedy subplot, to having their characters act out implausible “got one over on you” type fantasy situations, the Left Behind books are not about drawing people to Christ or to be Christians, as they are about making them that bought the product feel good about it, to mangle a metaphor from an old movie I once watched.

I should parenthetically insert a disclaimer: I am an atheist, and have no intention of ever adopting a religion. As such I will be focussing more on what plausibilities or implausibilities arise in this book, as well as doing a compare-and-contrast with Left Behind.

After all, part of what will decide how good or bad this book is, will be whether the difference is in the author doing most of the grunt work. If Jenkins couldn’t do it, can Parshall? We’ll see.

Nevertheless I’ll try to intersperse the commentary on the book itself with connections to broader economic and social issues, especially as the book bumpf itself claims it to be “ripped from today’s headlines”.

So, on to Page 1!

Hello world!

This blog has been created for the express purpose of reviewing the book Edge of Apocalyse, written by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall. Later, I may branch out to other books within the “End Series” arc should there be more, but for now, Apocalypse it is, thus the title of this blog.