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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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12 thoughts on “EoA: Looming Disaster

  1. I find myself not entirely convinced by the car crashes (as opposed to people just abandoning their cars in the middle of the road and starting to run), but hey. Yeah, it more or less works. Slightly worrying that that’s worthy of comment, but…

    • TBH it’s probably fairly realistic – I mean, if I got a phone call saying O HAI NUKE ON THE WAY I’d probably do some crazy shit like drive at the limit of my car’s speed governor for $PLACE_OF_ATTEMPTED_HIDING.

      • Not saying you’re wrong, I just think it would turn into the World’s Worst Gridlock in about ten seconds so there wouldn’t be a whole lot of actual crashes. Screaming pedestrians, absolutely.

        Oh sinner man, where you gonna drive to?

        Assuming this Korean missile boat of fun and frolics is parked on the edge of the contiguous zone, it’s 24 nautical miles off the coast. New York is in a bit of an elbow, so let’s be generous and say 35 nm from New York. Even with the first-generation Silkworm missile that’s still only around four minutes of flight time. (Which is why that USN task force would have sunk the ship as soon as someone aboard looked at them funny.)

  2. @Firedrake: Screaming pedestrians who could get hit by the cars–then you’d have crashes, right?

    You’re right; it’s not a bad action-y sequence. The prose just gets me, though: “Abigail grabbed for her Allfone, the new generation multifunctional cell phone, to turn it on.” Huh? In the middle of an action sequence, you’re going to describe the phone? (Maybe it is just a symptom of the phone-obsession.)

    Here from slacktivist, by the way.

    • Sarah, welcome. I think it’s revealing to rewrite that sentence:

      “Abigail grabbed her phone out of her bag and turned it on.”

      (I don’t like the double “her”, but let that stand.)

      What do we lose by this, apart from a bit of word count? Nothing that strikes me as at all significant. We can assume it’s a cell-phone, because she’s not carrying a huge spool of cable over her shoulder. The multifunctionality is not important to the scene. Nor, to me, is the newness of it – we’re about to find out about how rich in worldly things her husband is, it would be more worthy of attention if she had an _old_ phone.

      So I think you’re right: it is fetishism.

  3. Firedrake: “Assuming this Korean missile boat of fun and frolics is parked on the edge of the contiguous zone, it’s 24 nautical miles off the coast. New York is in a bit of an elbow, so let’s be generous and say 35 nm from New York. Even with the first-generation Silkworm missile that’s still only around four minutes of flight time. (Which is why that USN task force would have sunk the ship as soon as someone aboard looked at them funny.)”

    I’m wondering about the timing issue, too, especially about the feasibility/logic to put such breaking news on the building wrap-around text.

    Such a line makes it feel like LaHaye thinks the bombs will get there in about four hours or so.

  4. @Firedrake: Yeah, fetishism is one way to put it. I guess also what bothers me is the way the description invades the story–like the paragraph about Times Square. Maybe it’s because I know what Times Square looks like, but

  5. Ah, oops. My sentence got cut off. I meant to say this:

    Maybe it’s because I know what Times Square looks like, but I really don’t need to know about LED screens and JumboTrons. Kinda reads like someone who’s never been to the city.

    • Hmm. I’ve never been to Times Square, and it didn’t stand out for me – just as it doesn’t when I watch a TV show set in New York. I imagine that most of the intended audience for the book wouldn’t travel to such a pit of sodomy and gomorrahnism…

      • And by sodomy and gomorrahnism, do we mean selfishness and cold-heartedness toward one’s neighbor? 🙂

        Yeah, I suppose it’s a matter of taste here. It feels like unnecessary description to me, and I think it would pull me out of the story if I were actually reading it. Not, you know, that I would actually go out and _buy_ the book.

  6. Wandering over here w-a-a-y late, but the thing that struck me about this discussion was the authors’ assumption that the minute word came about the IMMINENT END OF THE WORLD (well, at least *their* world), the first thing that Those People (and we all know who They are) would do is loot a Nike store for shoes and jerseys.

    And how the heck did those women move about so freely in a panicked crowd? Have the Authors ever actually been in one? I have, and you’re lucky to keep your feet, let alone chart a specific path in opposition to the general movement.

  7. Firedrake said: “Assuming this Korean missile boat of fun and frolics is parked on the edge of the contiguous zone, it’s 24 nautical miles off the coast. New York is in a bit of an elbow, so let’s be generous and say 35 nm from New York. Even with the first-generation Silkworm missile that’s still only around four minutes of flight time. (Which is why that USN task force would have sunk the ship as soon as someone aboard looked at them funny.)”

    Except that, according to the Scrollboard, the missiles were “LAUNCHED FROM A N. KOREAN SHIP OFF THE COAST OF GREENLAND”. Now go to a map or atlas (or google “Greenland to New York” in GoogleMaps) and calculate the distance from the very southern tip of Greenland to NYC. According to my calculation from GoogleMaps, the distance is about 2400 miles. Even discounting an odd lack of U.S submarines (or even a carrier task group) ready to blow this intruder out of the water, a shipborne missile like, say, an R-27K ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R-27_Zyb and http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/russia/ss-n-13.htm ) would, owing to the fact that it is a *ballistic* weapon, take *maybe* 6-8 minutes to reach it’s target. Would that *really* be enough time for a) the news to even *reach* NYC in time for it to get posted on the scrollboard (how long did it take for the news of the first 911 hijackings to reach the TV and other media outlets?), and b) how long would it take to get JJ’s new (and possibly untested) anti-missile system online and ready to intercept this threat?

    Also; this new system is named “Return to Sender”, which implies retaliatory capability. Considering the confusion that our air-defense system displayed during the 911 hijackings ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5232563/ ) — and remember, the timeline on that one was something like an hour and a half long! — how would such a system (again, possibly untested) know what to retaliate against? Questions, questions…

    Less than 20 pages in and this book is already up to it’s ass in Fridge Logic and Suckitude.

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