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.
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.