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Some Early Thoughts on Left Behind

I've written before about the dangers of not knowing enough about a book when you begin reading it - it may end up being a completely different type of story from the type you usually enjoy reading. I've also written about the danger of knowing too much about a book before you start - it might bias your perception of the book. I recently began reading Left Behind, and I think it might be a case of the latter.

Specifically, I've been reading some of the blog posts from Slacktivist (as I write this, page 32 is the start of his (her?) Left Behind posts, but newer entries get added to the beginning, pushing older posts back, so there may be more pages if you're reading this a while after I first posted it). Slacktivist really, really doesn't like the Left Behind series, and frequently calls them the Worst Books Ever Written. As an evangelical Christian himself (herself), Slacktivist disagrees with LaHaye and Jenkins' interpretation of the Bible. But, worse than that from a story telling perspective, Slacktivist thinks the books are written badly. To put it in his (her) own words, "they're so consistently awful in so many different ways: theologically, politically, ethically, stylistically, all presented along with howling errors of continuity, logic and even basic geography. All of which combines to make these books not merely bad, but instructively bad." (Here's another example of one of my favorite posts from Slacktivist.)

After reading a few of Slacktivist's entries reviewing the books, I'm already biased against them. So far, I'm around 50 pages into the story, and while I can accept the religious aspects, it's been hard not to focus on the corny dialog, the lack of empathy of the main characters, and some of the simply unrealistic aspects.

Consider a few examples. One of the main characters, ace reporter, Buck Williams, flew into Chicago O'hare airport immediately after the Rapture. The book described a scene of utter destruction, with crashed planes strewn about the airport. Even if it weren't for the taxiways being blocked, all the terminals were full, anyway. So, after our heroes had landed, they had to walk back to the airport, through the wreckage. The book says that Buck Williams was "the first passenger from his flight to reach the terminal at O'Hare." Stop and think about that, keeping in mind how most people reacted after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Buck didn't stop to help a single one of the people in distress on the airfield. Instead, he rushed past every one of them in his hurry to get back to the terminal. Now, maybe Buck's supposed to be shown as a callous jerk in these early chapters, so that we can see him become a better person once he's born again (like Scrooge after being visited by Marley and the three spirits). I hope so, because right now, he's not a very sympathetic character.

On his way out of the plane, Buck had banged his head at the bottom of the emergency slide. Once back in the terminal, a doctor noticed his wound, and offered to stitch it up for him (why the doctor wasn't out on the airfield helping people is a bit of a mystery). But, just read what the doctor said when he was stitching Buck back up, "Be a big boy there, stud. This'll hurt less than the infection you'd get otherwise." Who talks like that? Was the doctor Olivia Newton John?

To illustrate the worldwide extent of the Rapture, the book described a newscast. There was a clip of a pregnant woman, whose baby was raptured in the middle of the delivery. Here's how the book described it, "CNN reran the footage in superslow motion, showing the woman going from very pregnant to nearly flat stomached, as if she had instantaneously delivered." This sounded a bit fishy to me. My wife just so happens to be a nurse who spent several years working in labor and delivery, so I asked her how long after delivery it took for a woman to be 'nearly flat stomached'. She said around a week or two for most people, but maybe one or two days if the woman had kept in really good shape during the pregnancy. It certainly wasn't immediately after the birth - the uterus was still enlarged. My wife did suggest that maybe the magic of the Rapture accelerated this woman's recovery.

I still have over 300 pages to go in the book, and possibly a whole lot more if I continue with the rest of the series. So, I'm going to do my best to quit being so critical, and try to just enjoy the story. It is better than Twilight, at least.

Added 2011-01-20 - I had another thought cross my mind when reading these books, and I'm pretty sure it's not the one LaHaye and Jenkins (L & J) want people to walk away with. Once people figure out who was responsible for all the suffering, death, and destruction caused by the Rapture, you'd think many of them might be out for vengeance. Consider that when L & J described Russia and her allies attacking Israel and showed God intervening to destroy the entire invading military force, He made sure that every piece of debris and crashed jet fighter that hit the ground didn't injure a single Israeli. He showed it was in his power. But in their description of the aftermath of the Rapture, L & J describe a catastrophe, where pilotless airliners had flown themselves into the ground, taking all their passengers with them, and where driverless cars had rammed head on into cars full of unfortunate non-believers. L & J haven't dwelt much on the consequences of all these accidents, but you have to assume that they left many survivors injured, maimed, and suffering.

If any human terrorist had caused the type of suffering and destruction that occured because of L & J's Rapture, people would be screaming for his blood. It would be similar to Americans' hatred for Osama bin Laden, but where practically everyone had been personally affected, everywhere in the world. If they were to discover that this Carpathia fellow were the enemey of the being that was responsible for their wife becoming paralyzed, or their husband losing a leg, or their father being in a coma, or their son being blinded, or their daughter being disfigured by burns, I can imagine people joining Carpathia's forces in droves to get revenge, resulting in a final battle like Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy, attempting to dethrone God to set up a Republic of Heaven. I wonder if this is part of how the story line will play out? (From reading ahead in Slacktivist's reviews, it doesn't look like it. Instead, Carpathia's trying to bring about world peace. Damned liberal hippy.)

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