Home » Edge of Apocalypse » EoA: At Least It’s Not a 747

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.

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14 thoughts on “EoA: At Least It’s Not a 747

  1. Interesting beginning . To me all scenes such as these immediately evoke comparison with the scenes Dr. Strangelove. Of course Kubrick was consciously aware of the stereotypes and mastered the trick of using them to play with his audience.

  2. Hurrah, I found this buried in the Thursday Flamewar.

    An EMP strike might well produce results as described – the fuel management system would be down, but the engines would keep running. However, if the on-board computers have been hit in this way – they are moderately hardened, so it would be a pretty chunky pulse to take them out – personal electronics are definitely toast. In other words, right here in the first pages, we’ve got a violation of the Way Things Work.

    But hey, actual EA-6Bs have a crew of four, so they got some facts right. That’s a good start…

    • That bit about the iPod was the first thing that bugged me too. Well, by “bugged”, I mean nearly yelling “That makes /no sense!/” at my monitor. …And why exactly would North Korea set off an EMP, apparently to bring down a spy plane? Wouldn’t that involve, you know, detonating a nuclear device? They’d be knocking out electronics across their own country (and probably a good chunk of neighboring countries, like, say China), and bringing down a hell of a lot of hurt on them from the international response.

      Sigh. Somehow I forgot that LaHaye stuff never makes any sense at all.

      • Well, to be fair there are non-nuclear EMP devices – basically huge capacitors that can discharge into the atmosphere, ionizing it temporarily and making electronics go haywire.

        That said, whatever happened to hardened milspec stuff? :\

        • Yah, but the only people with big non-nuclear EMPs are the USA. Even the conspiracy nutters don’t claim anyone else has got them. 🙂

          (“Hardened” = “resistant”, really – the idea is that if the EMP gets through you’re close enough to the nuke for it to ruin your day anyway.)

          But what we’ve got here is either:

          (a) a nuclear detonation. North Korea has just nuked its own territory. The flash will have made itself fairly apparent. Correct reaction: get home NOW.

          (b) an EMP weapon that’s entirely outside intelligence estimates. Correct reaction: get home NOW to talk about it.

          Do they, in fact, try to turn the plane for home?

  3. Oh, dear. I read the first few pages of the free prologue on Kindle, and . . . it was bad. I could not bring myself to pay for the actual book, so I only read through the intro of the Korean submarine, which was . . . atrocious. On twenty or thirty levels. I’d forgot about Hank Williams. (I know he’s a classic, but I wonder if twenty-somethings wouldn’t be listening to something else.) I don’t think plugging an electronic device with distraction would be appropriate in time of significant crisis.

  4. Dav, fair point; the first things to do would be a bunch of standard procedures (try to get the flight systems up and running again, basically; if they can’t do that, probably establish manual navigation and head towards the nearest friendly base). I am assuming these have been skipped over so that we can get to the character moments.

    Not sure whether I reckon that’s a good or a bad thing. LaHaye+Jenkins have form in getting stuff Comprehensively Wrong, but it looks as though Parshall at least knows how to use Wikipedia. On the other hand I’m really not expecting the characters to be any more real than those we know and loathe from Left Behind.

    (Wanders off, humming “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.)

  5. “Milius” is probably also an obRef to miles, Latin for the regular troops of the Legions (same root as military). Roman soldiers having not just a biblical pedigree, but also being a bit idolized by certain strains of American authoritarians.

  6. A US navy captain would not be flying an EA-6; a lieutenant, lietenant commander, or (at most) a commander who was the squadron commanding officer, but that would be very unlikely.

  7. The iPod thing:

    Um, no. First of all, as pointed out above, anything that could knock milspec avionics out-of-whack (*especially* on something like an EA-6B!) would fry the innards of an iPod.

    Second: To my knowledge, *any* aircrew venturing over “unfriendly”-to-outright-enemy territory is supposed to leave *ALL* personal items back at the base or on the carrier so that the “unfriendlies”/enemy can’t use them for propaganda, information/intelligence-gathering, blackmail or possible infiltration purposes. An iPod would *ESPECIALLY* be a no-no because it could be a) mined for personal information, or information on family or other officers (assuming, of course, that the information had not been wiped out already), and b) repaired and used to capture (especially if it had a camera and microphone that could be externally controlled), store and pass sensitive information to the enemy. So, yeah; another case of “Did Not Do The Research”.

    • Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, too. It’s just one of those “WTF?” things. Advanced Western technology was one of those bugaboos during the Cold War that involved multifarious export restrictions of all kinds because giving the Commies the good stuff would be like cutting our own throats (and TBH, giving the Soviets advanced computers to help rationalize their economy would have been a seriously dumb move – why would you want the other country do stuff better so they can out-do you?).

      So yeah, North Koreans getting an iPod would teach them a lot about miniaturized electronics and probably give them a kick-start on developing better military hardware. 😐

      • Nah, if the NKs want an iPod they can just ask the Chinese for one! I think it’s more that, if the NKs capture someone, they can subvert his iPod and then let him go…

        (Or just publish “American air crew use illicitly-downloaded music” stories. Not that anyone except the RIAA would care, but they’d have to pretend to.)

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