Edge of Apocalypse

Time for another installment in the series of book reviews which I call "Books That are not Worth Reviewing" – This time, it's Edge of Apocalypse, first book of the ominously titled "The End" series. From the press release:

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.

Tim LaHaye wrote the 'Left Behind' books. He's a real character. There's a Mike Huckabee interview with him and his wife where he basically says Obama is heralding in the end of days.

The LB series has sold about 65 million copies, which puts it fairly high on the list of bestselling books/series, but listening to Huckabee, you'd think LaHaye was the top-selling author of the day. For comparison, Stephen King has sold 500 million books. There's at least 100 million Chicken Soup for The Soul books out there. With a little luck, maybe LaHaye can catch up with The Little Prince, which has sold 80 million copies.

This is the first book in the "Books That are not Worth Reviewing" which has a preview videos available – not one, but two videos. Keen!

It's almost like I didn't even need to read the book. BUT I DID.

EoA gets right to business when an American warplane on patrol in the Korean DMZ suffers a total electronics breakdown. It's unclear how this happens, but the crew thinks the Koreans attacked them with some sort of secret weapon. While they struggle to get home, their radar (apparently it survived the attack) alerts them to two MiGs firing missiles at them. The pilot Captain Louder (a great name since everyone shouts in this book) manages to avoid the missiles but the plane is ruined. His crew ejects while he launches a missile, hoping to destroy whatever mysterious weapon attacked his plane. Louder ejects while American planes destroy the MiGs. We have no idea what happened, if Louder survives, or much of anything else at this point.

Fortunately for North Korea, they're in a great position to get some revenge. Somehow they've gotten a ship into the Atlantic Ocean, steaming off Greenland. Even better, the ship is carrying two nuclear missiles. This is a little hard to believe, since the Korean People's Navy SUCKS. And after a few paragraphs of details on how the Americans are jamming their communications, they still manage to get a fragmented message about the attack and their downed planes. And even though there are no commands in the message, they still decide to go ahead and launch their missiles at New York City. This book could have turned into Crimson Tide at this point, and I would've been a lot happier.

Luckily, weapons developer Joshua Jordan (what a name) is able to deploy his untested "Return to Sender" defense system. The RTS, which I think I saw in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon once, fires off a missile which then gets close to the incoming missile, and magically reprograms it via a laser beam to turn around and go back from whence it came, destroying that target instead. Thankfully the system works, and instead of destroying New York, the missiles blow up the Korean ship that launched them.

So at this point, we're maybe 20 pages into the book, and we've already learned a few things. First, the book takes place in the 'near future'. A 72-year old Korean general has always lived with a partitioned Korea, and since that split happened in 1945, we know it's at least 2017. Furthermore, we learn that the US could've destroyed the incoming missiles with it's anti-missile system, except that it's blocked from doing so by some sort of "6-party anti missile treaty" – this is confusing for several reasons. If such a treaty exists, why is the US working on a new missile defense system at all?

Second, anti-missile systems do not work that well. This book is full of little details that are supposed to make the book convincing, but almost without fail they fall flat. Over and over again they tell us what brand or style of clothing a character is wearing, sometimes several times per page. Parts of the book take place overseas, and the authors basically give us street directions to different hotels and other locations, as if knowing street corners will make the book seem more plausible. It seems like these extraneous details exist purely to make the authors seem more informed than they actually are. Here's a paragraph where we are introduced to one of the main villains:

Atta Zimler, also known as the Algerian, swung open the stylish French doors, causing the first abrupt rays of dawn to invade the sixthfloor suite of the elegant Athenee Palace Hotel. As he peered from the narrow balcony, which overlooked the famous Piata Revolutiei below, he couldn't help but notice the long, oddly shaped shadow created by the Iuliu Maniu statue, which sat at the center of the historic square. Wrapped in a luxuriant hotel robe, Zimler sipped his Turkish espresso and contemplated the upcoming day's events. He wiped his mouth with his napkin as he ran through the checklist in his head


After a shower Zimler extracted some clothes from his Louis Vuitton suitcase. Today would be casual -- an imported silk shirt from Italy, nicely tailored linen pants, leather shoes from Spain. As he dressed, it occurred to him, albeit briefly, that it would be the last time he could wear these particular items.

But these details fail most with the RTS system, because ABM systems simply do not work this well, and if one ever was going to be really effective, it wouldn't work the way this one is described. We are told that "As with all launch-based missile-defense systems, there was a narrow range of time when the weapon could effectively engage its target and deploy its defense system. This was usually within the first thirty to sixty seconds of flight." I'm not even sure that this statement makes any sense in the given context. I might be mistaken, but I think this statement is only true for ship-based ICBM interceptors, which generally try and intercept missiles as quickly as possible in their flight. Basically, ship-based ABM systems work best when they shoot down the 'incoming' missile in the first minute or so of its launch. Anyway, the idea of reprogramming a missile in midair via laser beam is pretty silly. Even if something like this was plausible, it would involve two missiles closing towards each other while travelling thousands of meters per seconds. If the laser works from 1000m away, then there's not much time for this magical reprogramming to work. And this one RTS missile actually needs to reprogram two incoming nukes, because apparently launching one wasn't enough. Anyway, that's basically impossible, and it also assumes the ridiculous notion that any weapon system will have some sort of window in the nose that allows you to remotely program it.

Some other bizarre details:

  • The President has a white leather sofa in his office. ewww
  • There's a scene where JJ is driving in his limo down the Boulevard of the Americas in NYC. Which doesn't exist. Avenue of the Americas is there instead
  • At one point, JJ contemplates putting some secret documents onto a Zip drive. A Zip Drive? Even now they barely exist.
  • "Zimler stood next to Jordan and scanned the room, moving in a three-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn" -- spelled out like that. Did they not know it's 360 degrees? Was it really 380 degrees? Why?
  • There's a scene where JJ, who isn't actually a Christian (his wife and children are Born-Again however), is playing golf with his wife's pastor. We get this awesome paragraph:

    But when Joshua swung through, it was with the velocity of a pitching machine. There was that sound of the solid crack as his round, little white-coated Bridgestone B330 lifted up into the air and continued arching and then finally disappeared down onto the fairway past the two-hundred-yard marker. The laughing had stopped.

    -- did we really need to know what sort of golf ball JJ uses, or that it's round and white, and 'little'?
  • When his son is kidnapped, JJ thinks: "It was a question that didn't have a clear or easy answer, but it sliced into his heart like a serrated knife" -- yuck
  • The President suffers from "transient ischemic attacks" which are basically a form of mini-strokes. There's this fairly pointless theory tossed out that the only way a person the age of the president can have these attacks is if they abuse drugs. This might even be true, but in this book its just another shovel of dirt from the authors.
  • After the missile attack, the book has some moments, but mostly it is dull and predictable. It's pretty clear that the authors wanted to write a book where the path is clear from current times, especially the election of Obama, to the end of the world. "Globalism" is the dirty word of the book, although it's only mentioned specifically three times, it's derided constantly, and inaccurately. The United Nations isn't very popular in the book, since they've managed to install 'human rights monitors' throughout the US, who mostly seem to exist to bash on Christians. Let's just say that the authors don't know a lot about how the UN works, and leave it at that. There are a couple enemies, other than liberalism and globalism. There's a character named Caesar Demas (what a name!), who is basically a bizarro world version of George Soros. Naturally, while hosting a peace conference, he's working on stealing the RTS technology so that he can sell it to the highest bidder. Control of the media is one of the bigger issues in the book, and is handled so absurdly. Somehow the government manages to take control of the media by convincing them to all get on the internet. This really makes no sense and isn't described well in the book. I think it's fairly safe to say that today, a lot of our news media is in the hands of a relatively small number of corporations - the big networks, Fox, CNN, and a couple big newspaper companies. Are these companies about to give up their broadcast and cable output so easily? And furthermore, the internet is so clearly a means for even better distribution of the news. Anyone can start a website now and publish their own news if they want. A lot of it sucks, but it's not hard to get your voice out there nowadays. Anyway, a secretive organization started by Joshua Jordan decides to fix this news problem by buying up a bunch of satellite time and force-pushing content to everyone's smartphone. Because nothing screams freedom like being able to start your own news agency and use it to force your viewpoints on everyone else. The news that this network is going to produce is referred to as "explosively controversial" -- because just being controversial isn't enough. I think the news is just supposed to be the news. At the end of the book, once JJ has saved his son from the assassin that wants to steal the RTS technology (did I forget to mention that part?) we learn that Russia is planning to help North Korea with another attack on the US, while also helping Iran launch nukes against Israel. We learn that our government knows about it, and has no plans to stop it. I guess we've learned that doing nothing to prevent terrorist attacks that you know about is good politics, but this seems a little on the extreme side. The authors of EoT have a blog, Edge of Apocalypse Today. It's basically a primer on weak arguments of logic and some general background info on the wacky world the authors inhabit. They whine about the START-2 treaty, because Russia isn't happy about our development of anti-missile systems and has said so during negotiations. Therefore, the end is nigh. How a Christian can complain about disarmament is beyond me. Looks like plenty of them agree. They whine about the United Nations. They whine about global banking regulations, as if the global banking system hasn't existed for hundreds of years at this point. It has the classic rants about Sharia law being imposed in the US, which has been disproved a thousand times now. If you want to read some great in-depth criticism of the book, check out Apocalypsereview's Blog -- it goes into much more detail than I have here. Also, slacktivist's coverage of the Left Behind series is great. Some other links I found while researching: http://catchkevin.com/my-articles/edge-of-apocalypse-my-ass/ http://www.talk2action.org/story/2010/4/26/14019/4609 -- "new and improved, and even more apocalyptic" http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/cohen_21_2.html http://www.apologeticsindex.org/l41.html http://www.bookreporter.com/features/010511-left-behind.asp http://pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com/2010/05/left-behind-fantasy-review.html
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