Jenkins, Jerry and LaHaye, Tim
Yeah, so I got my hands on the third Left Behind prequel, finally.
In the good department, there is a minor character in the original book who commits suicide. In the original book, they had it coming from out of the blue in a way that really didn't make much sense with what we had seen of the character before. In this book, they provide some of his deeper thought processes which, while not entirely explaining it away, made the suicide seem a bit more probable and not just an authorial "Hey, look, I can kill off my characters for next to no reason."
...the disappointing part? That was about the only good thing in the book. Jenkins and LaHaye had the possibility to convey a sense of wonder about a place (Heaven) in which there's not been much work done, but the whole thing comes off as a gross failure of imagination. (I know, I shouldn't expect imagination from a third-rate hack and a fundy preacher, but there it is.) Instead of being daring, and telling us a few interesting stories, we get the standard list of fundie heroes receiving their reward from God -- Graham, Moody, Wycliffe, Scoefield, a list of names familiar to anybody who's spend any time in the fundamentalist viewpoint. Also, it really bothered me that the 'peace of Jesus' cancelled out anything the raptured were feeling about those left behind.
I mean, hello brainwashing?
Also the whole prequel series as a series has really been disappointing vis a vis the 12 books about the Tribulation. At least, the books about the Tribulation could be taken with a bit of brain turning off in the style of a not very good but yet entertaining thriller series. These? The prequels come down as much more moralistic and plus they suffer a disjoint, being prequels written after the main series was completed. So thus you go from 1996 or 1997 or thereabouts (I remember picking up the first Left Behind book at the Christian bookstore my grandmother took me to -- and it didn't have any best seller stickers on it or *anything*) to 2006, and the difference in the world in those ten odd years is obvious. Not just on a personal technology level -- cellphones and the Internet, hello -- but in what's happened between then and now politically and in the sense of global history.
For example, the first book has our airline captain hero contacting a Concorde. The scene is repeated in this book, but the ref to the Concorde, which is now out of service, is replaced with 'French jet'. (Way to catch our imaginations, Jerry.) That's the sort of thing I mean. Plus in this book, there's a somewhat jarring reference to the events of 9/11 that still bothers me now. In a sense, the prequels are much more preachy, and thus the annoyance factor has ramped up, even for somebody who is familiar with that subculture. If anything, these books reveal some of the narrow-mindedness of that perspective.
And Jesus H. Christ, can't we frickin' get an Antichrist who maybe becomes the Antichrist simply because of the old aphorism 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'? That's one of the things I sorta liked at first about the Antichrist character in the original LB book (at least, until they have him doing something out of character at the end of the book) was that he was in many ways a person who wanted to do some good in the world.
At least, that was until I read the prequels and found that he's been in legion with the devil since he was a teenager, and that sense of wanting to do good in the world was a facade. Plus, what nearly had me throwing an earlier book across the room is that he's the genetically engineered son of two gay Romanians. (Again, I say, a gross failure of imagination.) Just...ew.
Jenkins' writing style clunks in places, too. There's a place where he actually has a character think "Two thousand down, only 1,999,997,999 to go." NNNNNNNG. Really, you don't have to be that stupid specific with your numbers. (BTW, the Rapture train is only taking two billion people out of the entire history of the world, so make sure you have your tickets now!)
But the last thing that really bugged me was this passage:
Irene sensed an unusual stillness in the sanctuary. Often when the place was full there seemed to be a hum or a buzz of activity, and one had to work at concentrating. But today, despite the biggest crowd ever, no one seemed to even move. Pastor Billings had once said that when prophecy is preached and taught, the body is challenged to holy living. He was hardly one who advocated turning one's back on the ills of society merely because you hoped to be one day miraculously rescued from it. Rather, he said, we should be all the more concerned with poverty, hunger, widows, orphans, and those in need. (emphasis added)
At the same time the bolded passage both exposes hypocrisy in the Church's ranks and at the same time fails to go far enough. In the not going far enough department, as one example, is that God commanded his followers to be good stewards of the Earth. Not a word of that here. But also, it bugs me that so few Christians really find a need to do something about poverty beyond their soup kitchens. Don't get me wrong, those who do soup kitchens have my respect, but there's so much more than can be done.
Unfortunately, the candidates the religious vote for are the ones who would be perfectly content to do nothing about poverty.
Also, the part about not waiting to be miraculously taken from the world really means we shouldn't be meddling in the middle east to get the Rapture to happen. Besides, in Revelations itself, it's quite clear. "None shall know the day or hour." Isn't trying to force God's hand in some ways trying to know the day or hour?
Oh, right, I forgot, that literal thing again.