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EoA: Chasing the Last Commissioner

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 311-314 (Chapter Fifty-Three)

Hello all! Back to the flow of things. πŸ™‚

So, here we are once again. Where we left off, Abigail was stuck because the last FCC Commissioner she needed to line up was unavailable. Cue the angst, ladies and gentlemen, after she tries to get a conference call with the last Commissioner, only to find his cell phone’s been turned off:

Daniels took a step closer to Abigail and whispered, “Already tried that. The guy’s got his cell phone turned off.” Then he reached out and squeezed her hand, said he was very sorry, and slowly returned to his inner office. Abigail grabbed her briefcase and stormed out of the building, down to the parking ramp to her rental car. Now all she could do was change her ticket to an earlier flight. Get home to Josh. Let him know she’d failed. And see whether by putting their heads together they could figure out some kind of Plan B. Even though she already knew there was no Plan B.

And thus begins the dun-dun-DUN funeral dirge, or so we think. Abigail goes on to angst moar:

She was able to enter Interstate 66 from the government center of D.C. much more quickly than she would have guessed and was heading west. But she didn’t have the heart to call Joshua. Not yet. How could she? Lord, why did You bring me this close to a miracle…just to have everything collapse?

Tears were starting to come. Then the traffic slammed to a halt, both lanes. Great. Now I’ll be late to the airport. I’ll be lucky to get a flight out tonight. This is a disaster…forgive me, God, but I am so utterly…

Now, as Deus ex Machinae go, the next part isn’t quite the most contrived that I’ve seen, but it does strain my credulousness a bit. While the odds are not zero you’d spot someone you were looking for on a freeway without knowing their origin point and time (or their destination point and time), they’ve gotta be pretty freakin’ small.

Then she noticed something off to her right, on an entrance ramp that fed onto the Interstate. A black limo. It slowed as the driver was obviously sizing-up the veritable parking lot of stopped traffic. But a truck about twenty cars ahead of Abigail managed to swing into the adjoining lane creating a gap. The limo driver sped quickly down the ramp trying to race into the space.

Abigail’s eyes lingered on the long stretch limousine and noticed the government license plate. It read “FCCOM 2.” Commissioner Lattig would have to be heading west on I-66 to get to his next meeting in the western corner of the state. She couldn’t believe it. The black limo squeezed into the traffic lane amidst angry drivers and honking horns. The line of traffic was still stopped.

Cue an OJ Simpson style low speed chase as she bounds up the emergency lane to catch up to the guy! She even (SHOCK) breaks her fingernail after slamming to a stop and yanking her briefcase out of her car. But just as she gets ready to run up to the commish’s car, guess what?

With the file containing the affidavit in hand, she picked up her pace alongside of the line of snaking traffic, heading in the direction of the black government limo. She was now only twelve cars from the limo. But the traffic started moving a little faster, up to seven miles per hour. She pumped her arms and went into a bigger stride. The traffic jam was breaking up. They were now up to nine miles an hour. Then ten. Abigail was now into a full-speed run and sweat was beading up on her face. The limo was just two car lengths ahead. A male driver next to her yelled something at her, but all she could hear was the word “crazy” as she ran past him.

Ignoring the fact that telling the exact speed of traffic would be next to impossible, as incidents of dramatic tension go, this beats Buck Douchebag bullying the car dealer into giving him the fully-loaded Range Rover’s number and trying to get hold of Chloe by about a country mile.

Now, this next part strains plausibility a bit. You’re a fairly highly placed government official, and in the post-9/11 world everybody’s had the “omg terrorists” mantra drilled into them from a half dozen sources. Suppose some random woman runs up to your limo while you’re being escorted to your next big meeting. Do you (a) just invite her on in, or (b) keep your doors locked and call the cops right away because better safe than sorry?

Surprise, the Commish picks (a) because of course, Abigail Jordan is too good and righteous to ever be mistaken for a terrorist!

Commissioner Lattig saw someone at his passenger side door and quickly slid over to the far side of the back seat with a startled look. She waved the file in front of the window. Then a look of slight recognition broke over his face. Lattig scooted over the seat and lowered the window half way down.

If I’d been him I’d have had the car phone in my hand in a split second, or failing that, my cell phone. Just in case.

Now, for the sheer jaw-dropping moment of discovery about why the Commish wanted to see her in person so badly (well, that, and the dialog I didn’t paste explains he didn’t think it was an emergency, though how that slipped past him I have no idea):

“It is. We have two votes in our favor,” she said breathlessly. “The chairman and, I think, Commissioner Copple. All we need is your vote…against World Teleco…it’s an outrage, Mr. Commissioner…has to be done this afternoon. Here’s the proof of deliberate viewpoint discrimination and censorship committed by World Teleco…” With that she stuffed the file containing the affidavit through the half-open window of the limo. Then she added, “Your staff said you demanded to see me in person. So here I am…”

“In person? Oh, that. Yes. But not about this case…”

“Then what?” Abigail blurted out almost in a shout.

“Well, to tell you something personal. About your husband.” Lattig lowered the limo window down all the way. Lattig’s face was fully in the open window of the limo. “I wanted you to know that I think your husband is a hero.”

Abigail couldn’t help herself; she started to laugh and cry at the same time.

“Now, about this case of yours,” Lattig said. “Get in, get in. Let’s talk.” With that he swung the door open. She climbed in just as the traffic started moving again.

I just – wow. Not only does this book practically genuflect and gyrate in paeans to Joshua Jordan, it does so in part by putting his wife through totally unnecessary turmoil! I normally don’t side with any Jordan family member except Cal, but If I were Abigail, I’d want to smack this hero-worshipping douchebag who made me break down crying in my car and then rush through traffic to catch up with him to get his freakin’ signature! Just because he wanted a personal visit for something that was completely unrelated to the subject at hand!

Hell, if Lattig was such a Joshua-worshipper, why didn’t he just automatically sign off on the whole thing the instant the chairman brought it up?

Oh, right. Because Parshall wanted ~dramatic tension~.

By Jenkinsian/Left Behind standards, it’s not as completely contrived or stilted, but holy balls, this comes close. We’ve already seen that in this book series, Parshall has manufactured aspects of the dramatic tension arc to push a particular agenda that presents the desirability of gender-role rigidity as well as contempt for civilian government, and Democratic-run governments in particular. In this segment, as unpleasant as the possibility is, given Abigail’s reaction to why Lattig wanted to see her in person, I think what Parshall has done is shown that Abigail is willing, under the right circumstances, to be a doormat for a man, even if that man is not Josh Jordan.

And that, I think, is a really uncomfortably chilling realization – that Deborah has probably been taught to sublimate her desires and wants and needs to a man, and when she meets someone who will one day be her husband, her only role model will have been her mother – a woman who alternately bullies and cajoles her children, while being the Stepford housewife to her husband.

It makes one wonder if Deborah had another reason for joining the military: to try and develop a career path independent of her parents, while appeasing the person she’s been taught matters the most. I think my fan fiction may have been more spot-on than I realized, since Cal is clearly the nail who just won’t stay hammered down, while Deborah silently appears to acquiece to what her family wants for her.

Anyway, so now that the last i has been dotted and the last t has been crossed, we’ll see what happens next in my next writeup. πŸ™‚ See you then!


26 thoughts on “EoA: Chasing the Last Commissioner

  1. It just all… feels… contrived. I mean, any fiction is contrived – even if it’s based on real events, they get moved around to make more sense and tell an interesting story. But this, I can see the wires moving people around. The NPCs don’t have personalities of their own; they just do what the plot demands.

  2. It’s impossible for me to imagine a way a woman could run along the highway at seven miles per hour in high heels, even one who is as fine a physical specimen as Abby must surely be. Did she kick off her pumps (in which case her panty-hosed tootsies would be ripped to shreds), or is she wearing (gasp!) sensible shoes???

  3. Seriously, everything seems to just Fall Into Place for the Jordans. Well, okay, except for the Contempt of Congress thing, but that’s LeHaye thinking of how awesome he would be if he had the chance to think of doing that….

    But, more seriously, this passage really underlines the whole ‘persecuted hegemon’ mindset RTCs have, which they seem to acknowledge even without meaning to.

  4. Hey guys. Just caught up with the writeup as a whole. I’d like to contribute some points that weren’t particularly dwelt upon in the commentary. πŸ™‚

    First of all, Parshal actually seems to be a good writer… at certain things. The nuke-scenario at the start of the book might have been classic, almost cliche disaster movie scene, but it was so competantly written I actually started to get into the story. The panic of the crowd, the way the main characters were some of the last people to realise what was going on, even Joshua leading his research team to save the day… it all worked.

    So I’m actually inclined to give Parshall his “action scene” merit badge. When the feces hits the fan, narratively speaking, he writes quite well.

    And then… urgh. I’m reminded of this xkcd comic, except I think I’d rather be reading a Rom Com. It seems like he wrote the climax of the book at the start and then said “screw it” and just tried to reach his allocated word count and political brownie-point quota. The pacing curve of this book looks like a hockey stick, with the blade at the front and the handle lying squarely on 0 for the rest of the book.

    The political brownie-point thing actually really bothers me. In Left Behind, Rayford and Buck might have been well-paid upperclassmen, but they weren’t gold-plated-hummer levels of rich. Joshua is, and it seems like a nod to the relatively recent trend amongst conservatives to heavily idolise the ultrarich and demonise the poor.

    This story could just as well have been told with Joshua working for the pentagon, getting a decent wage and respected by his peers, but no: Joshua has to fly around in his diamond-studded private jet sipping martini’s.

    Now don’t get me wrong, there are ways to tell a damn fine story when the protagonist is a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. But Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne… these hero’s know they’re billionaires, and their stories do too. That’s why they dedicate their life to “giving something back”: their good fortune becomes their motivation to help the poor.

    Joshua doesn’t display any of that self-awareness. He’s obviously a multimillionaire, probably verging on billionaire, but the story doesn’t make a point out of it: he just is because… what? Having more money than you know what to do with makes you cool? It’s the way the story just assumes being filthy rich is a positive character trait, and we never see any sign of the genuine positive character traits that could have stemmed from being filthy rich: charity, concern for the less fortunate, loyalty to the employee’s under his command. Contrast that with likable rich characters: for example, Richie Rich, or Scrooge (post-haunting).

    Yet we’re supposed to like this guy? Urgh.

    Second, Cals college experiences. I don’t know how America does “college” (most people including me go straight from high school to university here in Aus: Tafe colleges are more for tradies and the like), but that’s okay because it seems Parshal doens’t either. Cal’s experiences sound more like a sitcom version of high-school, with Jocks, Nerds, Cheerleaders and Asshole Teachers (presumably, Karen was a cheerleader in Parshalls mind. I visualised her quite differently). My own experiences at Uni were rather different: people were usually too stressed about the workload to socialise much beyond getting a few drinks together. Certainly feuds like what Cal had going on with Jock-guy were unheard of.

    Unless that’s what “christian colleges” are like? In which case: those poor doomed students.

    Also with regards to Cal, what the hell happened to “Oh my god I witnessed a woman trampled to death”? Where the hell is the PTSD? It seems like it was just an excuse to make him call his mum, which in turn was just an excuse for DADDY ISSUES because everything has to be about to Joshua.

    Calling it now: Cal’s the one about to be abducted by Zimler.

    Deborah also bothers me. We don’t get to see much of her, and when we do she seems like Abigail Mk2.0. Where’s the strong military-cadet daughter we were told about?

    Quick detour: Amerinews, aka Fox 2. The paragraph that was supposed to sell it to the readers (and presumably to the in-universe viewers) was this:

    AmeriNews would be a new breed of reporting, one that was willing to stand toe-to-toe with the existing news giants and would challenge the current political status quo. AmeriNews would cover hard-hitting issues that the mainstream Internet-driven TV and radio networks refused to cover.

    Have you ever heard such a load of politically loaded buzzwords? “Stand toe-to-toe” to “challenge the status quo” and cover “hard-hitting issues” that the “mainstream networks refused to cover”.

    But what I, and many others, always look for in such blatent advertising is substance. This sentence tells us exactly 2 things: they’ll be politically biased, and they’ll be competitive with the existing news programs.

    And this is what they think will get Josh off the hook? Another news program in a saturated market? He’s doomed, or at least he should be (besides which, he’s the Hero Of New York. Any existing news outlet would have run his story in an instant).

    And finally, the big one for me: this is a conspiricy thriller, right? So why, for the love of pasta, are we supposed to be rooting for the CONSPIRICY?

    Two conspiricies, at that: at first it seemed like Joshua was the everydayman embroiled in political consipricy, but then we learn that he’s in charge of one: at the ovaltable where everyone is equal(ly rich), he’s basically the guy at the head of the table stroking the white cat. And then they introduce The Patriots even shadowier conspiricy. Both of them aren’t shy about flaunting the law, pushing political agenda’s, and generally manipulating the world to be the way they want it, and we’re supposed to see this as a good thing?

    At this point it’s less about who’s pushing for the truth than it is about who’s got the biggest, shadowiest conspiricy. World Teleco trumps Roundtable, but then The Patriot plays it’s “spying on private citizens” card, which trumps World Teleco.

    That’s not how you write a conspiricy thriller, Parshall, although to be fair to him, it is how LaHaye writes his religon.

    • *mod hat off*

      *shameless fanboy squeeing*

      I love your analysis πŸ™‚ I want to just tackle a couple points – the rest I may take up in a future writeup. πŸ™‚

      1. Parshall does seem to write some things well. I don’t know what it is, but when he’s not pushing an agenda, he can write people – particularly young people – really well. The corniness of some of the things Cal and Karen said to each other really was believable. My headcanon at this point is that post-breakup Karen’s been taken over by the pod people, and that pre-breakup, she irked dear old Daddy Jordan by purposely grabbing Cal’s ass and pulling him in for a big ol’ smooch at one point. πŸ˜›

      2. Rooting for the conspiracy, indeed. This book, to any non-LaHaye-minded writer, pretty much forces the reader, by default, to hope Corland and his Administration get replaced by more competent leaders, but since that won’t happen in time, to at least support that they have a mandate from the people (as Jordan and his compatriots do not) to put in place the policies they think will best govern the USA.

      • Hee, thanks. πŸ™‚

        I did notice his abilitiy to write characters, though not to the same extent as the action scenes. That might be because I read a lot of webcomics: I’m used to reading authors who can turn almost every comment into a joke or a charactisation point, but I don’t read too many action scenes.

        In a weird way, Parshall’s strengths mirror my own. I tend to have trouble with plot-relevant dialog, but I can put two characters in a room and make them riff off each other easily. Likewise I’m pretty good at action scenes. Parshals got me on scene-setting, though. I absolutely suck at that (which is weird, ’cause I love world-building).

    • Second, Cals college experiences. I don’t know how America does β€œcollege” (most people including me go straight from high school to university here in Aus: Tafe colleges are more for tradies and the like),

      When the book says Cal was going “to college”, it means what you would call university – the phrase “going to university” sounds distinctly British to us. Colleges and universities are virtually synonymous in the U.S (while there is a distinction, no one pays attention to it). What you call TAFE Colleges are usually called “technical schools” or “trade schools” or “vocational schools” here.

      The Jock/Nerd/Cheerleader thing is *very* much a part of American college/university life – college (i.e. university) sports (football/baseball/basketball) are *huge*, particularly in the larger universities. The administrations spend vast amounts of money on attracting the best athletes for their teams (scholarships, coaches, etc.) Christian colleges/universities are actually *less* likely to be concerned about sports than the secular ones – they don’t have the money to compete in the high-prestige sports divisions.

      The social/party scene is also a big thing in a lot of universities, especially for those living on campus, though this is not openly advertised the way the sports teams are (but the big party schools are well known anyway – there’s even a yearly Newsweek article about the best ones). There are, of course, those of us who were primarily concerned with getting an education – we’re the ones who get labeled as “nerds”. Again, this is actually less true of the Christian schools – many of which have VERY strict rules (early curfews, prohibition of alcohol, omnipresent chaperones, forbidding students from leaving campus).

      Technical/Vocational schools (i.e. TAFE) actually aren’t like this – they aren’t allowed to participate in college sports, and usually don’t have much in the way of on-campus housing or fraternities and sororities, which is usually the center of the social/party scene in American universities.

      • “The Jock/Nerd/Cheerleader thing is *very* much a part of American college/university life – college (i.e. university) sports (football/baseball/basketball) are *huge*, particularly in the larger universities.”

        Wow, really?

        That’s completely alien to me. Over here (at least, in my experience in an engineering course), that entire ‘high-school’ mentality basically vanished in the transition. Certainly the concept of Nerds vs Cool Guys died instantly: everyone studies or they fail, and people who fail drop out. A certain level of maturity and intelligence was implied by the fact that we were studying and not working.

        Weird. I can’t even imagine a college scene where those sorts of feuds and stereotypes still operate: I mentally associate them with the more immature high-school scene.

        • Same here! It helps that at the university I go to, fraternities and sororities are very low-key and downplayed compared to the “typical” American experience. Even so the movies overexaggerate, so don’t take them as gospel for how frat hazing works.

        • I’d say that, *within some particular majors*, it’s certainly true that everyone studies hard or drops out (or switches majors) – that was my own experience as a computer science major. But being in such a major is one of the things that gets you relegated to nerd-dom by the rest of the students, and even the faculty. You get *much* less attention from faculty and administration if you’re in the engineering and sciences majors than the athletic students do. The administration will do a *lot* to keep even an average athlete from dropping out. (Extra tutoring, scholarships, easy courses to keep the GPA above the required minimum, etc.)

        • There’s still something of a technical difference – I think you have to offer a Master’s program in at least one subject to officially be a university. (I think DeVry University, which is really a technical school, calls itself a university on the basis of its MBA program.) But “going to college” means any post-high-school academic institution – George Bush “went to college” at Yale, for instance. Using the phrase “going to university” marks one as distinctly non-American.

      • Just one nitpick. The community college I’ve been going to does do college sports. Maybe you meant not in the same league or division or whatever as the four-year institutions? On the other hand, it’s so small-time, it wouldn’t be hard to miss it.

        • No, community colleges are still academic colleges and do college sports. When I said Technical/Vocational schools don’t do sports, I was talking about places like ITT Technical Insitute, not community colleges.

  5. Much like ququasar, I’ve just finished catching up, with the difference that I did read the earlier parts a while ago, but put it on hold about a year ago or so. The thing that keeps bothering me repeatedly about this MNE business is imagining how, if I found a new news source on the Web or TV, and it just happened to have a big push in its first day supporting someone who was the subject of some kind of congressional inquiry, just as it was coming to a head, and it by-the-way happened to be owned or controlled by that someone, it might take me all of 3 nanoseconds to write that source off as hopelessly biased. If he’s keeping his affiliation with MNE hidden, it might take as long as 7 ns. I’m really wondering how they’re going to pull this off once MNE (inevitably) is triumphant and gets on the Allfones. My money is on writing the public as extremely gullible.

    • The Tea Party struck me as curiously “pushed” much the same way as MNE is, but hard evidence that it’s been astroturfed as a way to throw sand in the wheels of Obama’s program is rather scant. So someone might suspect, sure, but absent some digging I’m pretty sure a lot of gullible right-wing voters wouild be only too happy to go along with the MNE party line.

    • Looks as though something may actually happen in book 2. We can’t be having that!

      And… a woman in a leadership position? Say it ain’t so!

      • Remember when Abby love-bombed Cal with “God thinks of your father and me as one entity”? So I guess if Abby is “in charge” of something, really it’s Joshy in charge, too.

    • From the back cover blurb on the site:

      In the Brink of Chaos, the third book of The End series, corruption in high government offices threatens to block the election of a worthy presidential candidate by all means necessary—including the unthinkable—while Joshua Jordan and his family fight seemingly impossible odds to clear his name and protect the autonomy of the nation of Israel.

      Two thoughts.

      First, I suspect their definition of ‘worthy’ and mine have very little in common.

      And second… since when the heck did Israel have anything to do with this aside from the fevered apocalyptic dreams of the pre-millenials? It looks like LaHaye’s Bircher ideas of the UN being a massive worldwide conspiracy to suppress Real True Americans got in here, too.

      • The LaHayeian worldview may be riddled with inconsistencies, but one can’t legitimately accuse him of hypocrisy. He applies it everywhere.

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