on July 9, 2004
This now-famous set of novels has doubtless affected many thousands of lives for the better. Because of that I thank God that Lahaye & Jenkins fleshed out their idea and forged ahead with this series. People needed to hear this message.
For me, however, because I am a voracious reader of fiction and having also studied the Scriptures for years in relation to our Lord's return, I must admit this opening installment left me absolutely cold. Part of that is surely because I know the whole general plot before it all begins, because I'm familiar with the premillenialist point of view on Bible prophecy. Some of the suspense is lost if one knows the outline before the book is even purchased.
But I have more serious problems with "Left Behind" than my own familiarity. For instance, while I believe the premillenial perspective is largely closer to our future reality than other interpretations of the vastly vague prophecies of our coming end times, I don't buy into it completely. The concept that God will really cause The Rapture in such a way as to kill so many unregenerated humans by removing Christians who are driving their cars, operating air traffic control centers, flying airplanes, etc., seems problematic. This isn't a case of the Israelites coming into Canaan and cleansing the land of the corrupted cultures there; this is a case of Christians mingled among those who may be saved, and I can't accept the extrapolation of prophetic exegesis that results in this belief. Ultimately I think those of us who reach heaven will look back and laugh at some of the stuff we believed, and fall down in worship at God's feet for the wisdom He displays, as shown by the way He'll pull all this off. Never doubt that His way will be far better than anything we've yet figured out.
Having said all that, a more basic problem here is that the writing is so, so basic. Sure, that was done to reach as many people as possible, but the writing is dumbed down SO MUCH that it's painful to try to slow down my mind enough that it doesn't wander. A book on this subject should be so gripping that it at least holds one's attention, don't you think?
This leaves me with the feeling that the "Left Behind Kids" books are superfluous. This book is as easily accessible to grade school kids as anything I've seen, which is a good and bad thing. Think of it as "Premillenialism 101: A Grade School Primer," and you'll have an appropriate outlook on the character of this novel. That's not an entirely bad thing, obviously, but this reader prefers something on a more grownup level and won't be cracking open any of the sequels to this megahit.
on May 23, 2004
Left Behind, as you know, chronicles the end of times. The question that came to my mind is: Who's interpretation of the end of times? Most of what this book uses as it's biblical reference comes from the book of Revelations. Revelations is the most debated and the least understandable book of The Bible. Most of it is written in cryptic metaphor that seems to be, for the most part, lost in translation and open to any interpretation you want it to be.
Central to the plot is the separation, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats to good from the wicked. Yet, I found it too easy for God to simply pick out the goodies and the baddies. Indeed, if Jesus died for *some* of our sins, why do we worship him at all. Last I checked Christianity wasn't a elite club that only some qualify for. God's grace seems not to enter into this novel.
The book itself was fairly uninteresting, it seemed written by a novice author with subject matter that distracted readers from a pretty poorly written story (see DaVinci Code). Overall, I thought that this book only succeeded in dualizing humanity into good and bad-yet, this metaphor is outdated in today's world. Good and bad no longer cut it, and this writing only succeeds at the over simplification of a religion that is anything but simple.
on May 11, 2004
Obviously whether or not you're a Christian will influence whether or not you enjoy this book (and series). Most of the reviews others have left for the most part are accurate in their assessment. My complaints centrally revolve around two points:
1) In an effort to make the prophetic events palatable as popular fiction, the story centers around a "cast" of characters. One has to suspend disbelief to swallow a story where events of such magnitude revolve only around a handful of people. You can almost see the Hollywood movie-like casting, obligatory racial stereotypes included.
2) For readers who happen to be Christian, the fact that the book is fiction (though based on prophesied events) seems to be somewhat insulting to faith. That is, if one believes the prophesies that form the basis of the story, reading about them in a book peddled to the masses alongside other fiction offerings like Star Trek may seem to denigrate their importance.
IMHO, it's best for the Christian and non-Christian alike to see this book as a piece of fiction based on prophesy, and nothing more.
on April 23, 2004
I began the Left Behind series a few years ago when I was in college. I enjoyed it but failed to keep up with all the new books as they came out so I was left behind (pun intended). Now that I have finally gotten all the books, I have started over...
And boy is it tough to keep going. Listen, I am no "wolf in sheep's clothing" as so many people who review this book poorly obviously are. I am a Christian, and when I see a good quality Christian product, I will support it. But if something is done poorly, I can't pretend it's great.
I should clarify, I am early still in the first book of this series so it may get better (my memory escapes me, but I do remember enjoying it when I read it for the first time). But to be perfectly honest, this is just horrible. It's not the plot or characters that I have a problem with (those are probably what keep one going, honestly). It's the juvenile writing style that makes it almost unbearable. I know there is a children's version of the Left Behind series so there is no excuse for this. The dialogue is unconvincing. It was so obviously written by a conservative Christian. What he doesn't realize it that nobody talks this way. Nobody thinks that way.
I tell you what, inferior Christian products really make my blood boil. There is no reason for it. God gave us talents and abilities and we should be able to do better than this. I really hope, for my sake - because I'm not one that gives up easily - that this gets better in a hurry.
on March 10, 2004
This book has set the stage for one of the more interesting visions of Christian fiction to come along in a long time. The concept, as laid out by LaHaye and Jenkins, is such that it immediately grabs you and entices you along for the adventurous ride. Along the road to Armageddon, as the characters themselves struggle with their new found faith, the series seems to assert that we, too, should constantly struggle with our beliefs.
Unfortunately, what could have been such a powerful and grand literary work falls far, far short of its goals, both spiritually and fictionally. Theirs is a poorly written series that, quite frankly, does incredible damage to the genre of Christian literature. The concepts and images of the fulfillment of the biblical prophecies are fairly accurate, if unimaginative. They are LaHaye's interpretation of future events, and I would be too arrogant to dispute his research.
However, Jenkins' narrative shows such obvious lack of any attention to detail that it strains the mind to the point of pain. Any good storyteller can keep the reader fascinated and involved in the story itself - however, this book (and the series overall) is so wrought with poorly researched background that the reader has no choice but to read it from a distance, and never connect with the story itself. There are a number of incongruities here (from a 757 airplane that the writers apparently don't realize has existed for more than two decades to the use of security systems that are "unbreakable" to all but our heroes and their teenage offspring to the lack of basic security precautions around a man - Nicolae - who is considered the ruler of the world) that destroy whatever value was in the concept to begin with. There is a bizarre scene where Chicago is being destroyed around the main characters and Rayford Steele is desperate to get home to his family. In the middle of this nightmarish battle and terror that is occurring all around him he stops to negotiate and purchase an SUV from a local dealership. The mere incomprehensible thought of two men bartering for a vehicle while the world around them disintegrates boggles the mind. The writers must have laid out their scenes in little scraps on paper on a desk and where there were holes between them, or where characters needed to magically appear in one scene or another, they merely stretched the bounds of their fiction to fit their needs. The story would have been so much stronger from better control of the plot lines and tighter boundaries on their vision of reality.
I do not recommend this book or series to the serious reader. Yes, I am a man of faith and there are a number of better, more inspirational or though-provoking books in the Christian genre that I would recommend instead (read Peretti, for instance). The christian ideology in these books is fair and passable, but the lack of storybook control reduces any lessons or entertainment here to a mere afterthought on the part of the reader. It is, ultimately, highly disappointing.
on March 1, 2004
This one got two stars because it was so ludicrous and poorly written that it actually became entertaining. It's a thinly veiled fictional account of a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation -- and an incorrect literal interpretation at that. Clearly written with an agenda (several pages are out-and-out preaching), it utilizes cardboard characters that don't even behave in Godly manners after their "conversions," denigrates women, displays an astonishing bias against Christian faith traditions that are not fundamentalist and evangelical (not just against Catholics), and in general is poorly written and even more poorly researched.
Anyone who's ever actually READ REVELATION FOR THEMSELVES knows that it's not supposed to be taken literally, and the characters are little more than stereotypes -- if that. I find it interesting that some of the characters bear a striking resemblance to those in the sci-fi book Beneath a Sunless Sea (which is also apocalyptic in nature but is decent fiction with a plausible cause and a surprise ending...and only a very minor agenda).
Don't pay money to buy this, but if a copy does end up in your hands, go ahead and read it. If you don't end up utterly amazed at its simplistic agenda, it's because you'll be laughing at it and wondering how any sort of reputable publisher would have EVER turned out something like this.
on December 21, 2003
Personally, I found the first book in the Left Behind series to be unbelievable for the most part. As one reviewer said, it does not make any sense that Russia would attack Israel for some formula that makes the desert bloom. And New Babylon? Come on. It sounds like a bunch of fanatical fundamentalist mumbo jumbo to me. I found the characters to be shallow. I suppose that could be b/c the authors' main focus is the plot, but well-developed characters go hand in hand with a well-developed plot. I did find Nicolae's charm (to some extent) and Rayford's pride believable, but they were still not developed as well as they could have been. The only reason I finished the book was to see what ridiculous thing would happen next. Also, I do not agree with Bruce Barnes (and everyone else who finds Christ) that the best way to bring others to Christ is through immediate, direct confrontation. The best way to bring another to Christ is to build a friendship with him/her and demonstrate your faith in your actions. Actions speak louder than words. I am a Methodist and not a big fan of fundamentalist Christianity. Also, research shows that no church believed in the secret rapture theory prior to 1830. It is still not believed by the more historical, mainline Protestant churches or the Catholic Church. Jesus' second coming will not be secret. It may happen in the twinkle of an eye, but I do not believe that it will be secret. I encourage anyone who is sincerely intersted in a relationship with Christ to research theories on His second coming and to visit a Methodist or other historical church that teaches sound Biblical doctrine on the second coming (and other areas).
on August 3, 2003
As a believer and continual seeker for a greater understanding of God, I'd hoped this book would be, as promised by folks I respect, a good, exciting read that would illuminate the role of Christianity in modern society. I wanted to like the book, indeed to love it as they did, but instead I found it a flat read, with two-dimensional characters plodding through fairly unbelieveable circumstances. (It wasn't the Rapture part that was so unbelieveable, it was the flimsy plot undergirding it: gimme a break, a pouty flight attendant successfully whines her way into how many disinterested but well-meaning people's lives only to catapult instantly to the Antichrist's girlfriend? Ick. Too simple.) Yes, sometimes the storytelling did ratchet up almost to the excitement of a spy thriller, but more often unwound itself in its painstakingly dull detail and pale characters a reader must strain to summon affection for.
As a believer, I simply refuse to surrender my intelligence to the widespread adulation of this book. I continue to yearn for high-quality fiction that serves both intellectual curiosity and the continual search for deeper religious meaning.
on September 28, 2002
Like most Science Fiction, enjoyment of this "Christian Sci-Fi" novel depends on your willing suspension of disbelief. In this case the whole plot hangs on a 19th Century fundamentalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation, a late and rather dubious addition to the New Testament. Remember that the New Testament, like the Old, was assembled by a committee of "experts" long after the fact. The rest of the New Testament is biographies of Jesus and rather streightforward accounts of the travels and writings of His immediate followers in the establishment of Christianity. Revelation is an Apocolypse, a fantasy of Devine retribution against the Roman persecutors of the early Christians
The writing in Left Behind starts out fairly good and exciting with the immediate aftermath of the "Rapture" but then bogs down with the seemingly endless talk and soul-searching of the four major characters. There are two authors; one can only assume that one wrote the "thriller" parts and the other fellow the preachy parts. Left Behind picks up again a bit with the introduction of the Antichrist character, Nicolae Carpathia (but please, an evil being actually named "Nick"!)and his rather too easy takeover of the UN.
Overall, except for the too long theological passages, it is an OK Sci-Fi thriller and will probably make a good movie but great literature it is not. And it is based on the fundamentalist premise that people need to be scared into belief...
Eugene S. Erdahl
on August 16, 2002
This book had me intrigued in the beginning, but as the plot progressed the complexity of the story stagnated. I think the authors were attempting to craft this work without reference to any present day church, but it's simply ludicrous to think that, if the Rapture actually occurs (also a matter of debate), there will be no commentary or response by such institutions as the Vatican, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Coptic Church, the Metropolitan of Moscow, the twelve bishops of the Methodist church or any of the leaders of other main-line, established Christian denominations. Or, for that matter, any other of the worlds large religious bodies. There is no mention made of any recognized Christian church leaders - the reader receives the religious "viewpoint" on events through "New Hope Church", a small and apparently non-denominational church in Illinois that is the only church anywhere that understands what is occurring.
This is a simply ridiculously thin plot basis.
The main characters, despite their education and life-experience (airline pilot, top reporter at the fictional equivalent of TIME, a college student) never even question or mention someone like the Pope who, if he was not taken away in the Rapture, would certainly have something to say about it! The dialog as others have noted, is stilted and not imaginative.
This book will appeal to readers whose Christian viewpoint is uninfluenced or unexposed to others outside their denomination.
Anyone with a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of Christianity - Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Catholic - will have observe conspicuous gaps in the storyline that ultimately undermine "Left Behind's" believability as a work designed to speak authoritatively to the masses.