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Left Behind
A Novel of the Earth's Last Days
By Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

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Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days

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Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days
Large Print Edition
The Left Behind Series - Book 1
By Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Thorndike Press, (2000)
ISBN: 0-7862-2468-1
Genre: Mystery - Suspense, Science Fiction

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - September 10, 2001

Although Left Behind is primarily categorized as a suspense novel, or as Christian fiction, it read more to me like a science fiction novel from the 1950's. As the novel opens, Cameron (Buck) Williams, a senior writer for the Global Weekly, is on a plane thinking back on his recent visit to Israel. He had gone to Israel to interview Chaim Rosenzweig, the developer of magical formula for fertilizer that has allowed the Israeli's to turn their country into a verdant cornucopia of food stuffs. During Buck's visit, Russia launches an attack against Israel because the Russian's are a bit peeved that Israel won't share the fertilizer formula with them. Russia figures, if they cannot have it, no one can, so they try to nuke Israel. By some fluke, not a single Israeli died during the attack! Shortly there after the plot thickens...

Imagine that you are on an airplane, and suddenly, without warning, people disappear. One instant you are looking at them, and the next your looking at their clothes settling to the floor. To heighten the situation, when the people disappeared, they left behind all non-natural parts of their bodies, such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, artificial hips, and pace makers. Now multiply this plight the world over and you have the makings for a juicy disaster epic! This is just the situation that Buck finds himself in as more than a hundred passengers simply vanish from the plane he is on. This situation is not confined simply to the one plane, but it is a situation being played out the world over, creating mass chaos. Pilotless planes plummet from the sky and massive car accidents occur because the drivers have vanished. People panic as loved ones vanish, including most of the children, and most astonishing, all the fetuses disappear right out of their wombs. In short, the world is sent reeling into a state of primeval chaos as the entire fabric of society is shredded in a few short seconds.

While Buck does not know what happened, the pilot, Rayford Steele knows - Christ had raptured his church and taken all the believers and the innocents to heaven. Ray knows all this because his wife Irene had told him that it was coming, and tried to turn him into a true believer - but now it was too late - he had been left behind. This is the basic tenet behind this, the first book in the left behind series. Christ is going to rapture his church, so you better get with the program before it happens because once it does, you're not gonna want to be left behind. "Why not?" you ask. Simple, because shortly after the rapture occurs, the earth is going to be plunged into seven years of hell-on-earth as the forces of Good and Evil fight over the souls of those left behind. Only after this period of tribulation has occurred, will Christ come back to reign on Earth.

This book is, in many regards, written for those already converted to the 'cause' and for those on the border line of accepting the Christian Fundamentalist doctrine on the rapture. But for those, like me, who are not Christians, this book will do nothing to convert them. I'll not go into my own religious views on why I feel this way. For the reason this is a review of the book, and not a forum to discuss the virtues of one belief system over another. While this book will never turn me into a Christian, I did find it to serve as a riveting glimpse into a set of religious beliefs that I was only superficially aware of. As well, many readers, even Christians, may be turned off from this book because of the stilted, Sunday School lesson styled dialog that permeates this story.

It introduces you to many of the people that you will see in future Left Behind novels such as Chloe Steele, Rayford's daughter who was also left behind. As well as Hattie Durham, a flight attendant who Rayford had had thoughts of trying to seduce, and Nicolae Carpathia, an up-and-coming politician slash antichrist. There is also Bruce Barnes a 'left behind' visitation pastor who is determined to make the most of his second chance to find Christ. The authors make full, unashamed use of Barnes, allowing him to be the 'teacher', teaching the other characters in the story, and the readers, all about the rapture and the coming tribulations.

Not only does this story revolve around the disappearance of the faithful, and the associated aftermath, but is also explains the basis upon which the authors have constructed their apocalyptic scenario. It also offers their views on what they think will happen after the rapture, and the sequence of events that are suppose to happen, according to their interpretation of the book of Revelations, once the rapture has occurred. This story also contains some antisemitic undertones that are a bit disturbing, such as some 'international conspiracy theories' that harken back to the rhetoric of the 1930's. There is also some blatant 'innuendo' that the Jews are basically 'stupid' because they've never accepted Christ. But that it is ok, because they are needed to play a big role in the coming end times, and in the end most of them will convert anyone once it becomes clear that they have been 'wrong' all this time.

So, all this said, how did I like the book? I have to admit that I liked it. The trick is looking at it strictly as a work of science fiction, rather than as religious propaganda. As science fiction, it was entertaining and in this light, the religious aspects, including the New Testament Bible quotes, came across simply as interesting background information on an alien (to me) culture. Granted, this is not a deep book, and the characters are fairly innocuous, nonetheless I did find Left Behind to be a fun read. In part this was because is was simply an old fashion space opera, set on earth - with just as many quirky, unbelievable happenings as you would find in any of Robert Heinlein's earlier works when young John, Bob, or Steve stows away on a space ship and saves the world. Left Behind is a quick read, one that is perfect for those days when you don't want to tackle anything heavy like Dostoevsky.


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