Three damaged souls lie at the heart of Jensen's cinematic and apocalyptic novel that begins when art therapist Gabrielle Fox starts work at the Oxsmith Adolescent psychiatric Hospital in Hadport, Southern England. It is here where the evil and self-possessed Bethany Krall lies incarcerated. Intractable and violent the fourteen-year-old Bethany has a formidable reputation. The reports of her mother's murder still manage to stir up a familiar heart sinking queasiness, stabbing her mother Karen to death with a screwdriver in a frenzied and unexplained attack while Bethany's father Leonard, an evangelical preacher was away at a prophecy conference. When Gabrielle first meets Bethany she's two weeks into what has been billed as a six-month posting, and is assigned to Bethany because no one else wants to deal with her. She's also filling in for Joy McConey, a psychotherapist who has left the institution in a unspoken disgrace. From the outset however, Bethany proves to be intractable and violent. The reports of Karen, her mother's murder still manage to stir up a familiar heart sinking queasiness, stabbing Karen to death with a screwdriver in a frenzied and unexplained attack while Bethany's father Leonard, an evangelical preacher was away at a prophecy conference.
While Bethany draws a huge strength from somewhere, in her sessions with Gabriel, she's nasty and belligerent and she behaves like she's up for a fight and looks like trouble, it is the ECT - a type of electronic shock therapy interventions, where "she feels more alive then ever before," yet she refuses to discuss her parents and the catastrophic event that bought her here. But the ECT treatments stimulate a strange preoccupation with climate change, chemical pollution, and apocalyptic scenarios. Manipulative, and prone to dramatic mood swings, she begins to sprout well-informed psychotic fantasies, biblical outpourings, and then sudden extreme violence. The poor Gabrielle is trust into a situation in which she least able to control. Still reeling from a tragic car accident sixteen months ago which has left her paralyzed from the waist down, the therapist becomes ever more obsessed with Bethany and her apocalyptic visions.
But Bethany is constantly hurtful and makes fun of Bethany's misfortune. She's seen things she can't possibly know and said things she shouldn't have and more than anything Gabrielle wants to damage her. She also "register's stuff" - seas burning. Sheets of fire. All of humanity dying a horrible death. Whole coasts washed away. Are these drug induced visions? Daydreams? Or is it metaphorical? Gabrielle senses an electric energy about Bethany, an immense reservoir of violence and anger. A sixteen year old murderess who is obsessed with the apocalypse even as she tells of the Rapture, "a form of salvation for the righteous." When Frazer Melville, a Scottish physicist arrives on the scene, he's also drawn to Bethany with intractability and her militant cynicism and this strange power to predict natural catastrophes. Frazer driven by curiosity about Bethany's jigsaw puzzle that whirls around global warming, also finds himself attracted to Gabrielle. There affair is absurdly romantic, and Gabrielle's broken body is tumbled into a turmoil of wanting. Not knowing how to get, how to have, Frazer helps her reawaken herself as a woman who can make love, replenishing her battered soul.
When a warning comes from Joy Mcconey: "Bethany Krall's more dangerous than you think. She feels things. Blood and minerals. The way things flow," the past and the future once held in embryo are in danger of being wiped out, a hurricane in Rio, an earthquake in Istanbul. And then there's the drawings from her notebook - a mining operation, four oil rigs with yellow cranes. The text scrawled in black, sets of dates, places and events. Some are written in black and others in green red blue. Premonitions of disaster. Bethany's visions are a catalyst for much of the disasters that for page upon page begin to sweep through this story.
Indeed Jensen's cinematic apocalyptic scenario that makes up the last part of the book is impressive, if not a little Hollywood-like even as she paints a vast landscape of disaster and a runaway depiction of global warming in a scale that's beyond anyone's worst nightmare. Certainly the efforts of Gabriel, Frazer and their collection of scientists are pitiful against such magnitude. An exploration of the sheer force of belief and the incapability of true faith, The Rapture is mostly a cautionary tale of a planet in peril where fundamentalist religion and the beginnings of "The Rapture" are framed against the very real dangers of climate change. There's no doubt that Gabrielle and Bethany's personal stories run in stark counterpoint to the ungoverned world disasters even as Bethany seems to be psychically linked to them: "She has her own volcanic eruptions, her own changing atmosphere, her own form of melt down." The relationship between the two women gives this novel its offbeat emotional core as they both seem to find an inner strength in the face of these catastrophic events. In what is basically a disaster novel, written with an eye for Cecil B Demille grandeur, Jensen's action never stops, from Bethany's kidnapping to the climax in London's Olympic Stadium, there comes a rapidly unfolding rain of assaults on man, and the intimate worlds of Bethany, Fraser and Gabriel are starkly juxtaposed as they race against time to stop the full force of nature. Mike Leonard August 09.