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by Tim F. LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
Published by Tyndale House Publishers, 1995
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Recommended by: Ronald B. Oakes
The Left Behind Novels are a series of twelve novels that dramatize events that occur during the period between a pre-tribulation rapture and Christ's return to establish His kingdom. The events in the series are based on Tim LaHaye's interpretation of the biblical prophesy of these events. The novels are credited to Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, although the later novels gave Jenkins the primary writing credit.
Overall, this series is not too bad of a read. It is not, however, great literature. The characters tend to be a bit thin, and will often go through several novels, and several harrowing experiences, without any major growth. The story has a tendency to grind to a halt for several pages while a sermon is preached. (At least most of the sermons in the book are literally sermons.)
Another major problem is that the series is way too long. At one point in time if I recall correctly this was about the time book 4 was released the series was intended to go for seven books. However, it was decided to increase the series to twelve books. This has resulted in several of the books having the action and story stretched very thin. One very noticeable result of this is that three or four books near the middle cover a total of about a week of time. I mostly bought and read the last two books just so that I could, finally, complete the series.
There are a couple of good reasons to read these books. First, they may be a more interesting and enjoyable way to learn about LaHaye's interpretation of eschatological prophecy than reading a research paper on the same subject.
Another good reason to read these is because of their wide popularity. This is especially true for Christians who regularly read SF and action-adventure books. For many Christians, these novels will be their only experience with these genre, and for many non-Christians these novels will be their only experience with stories written for a Christian market. Being aware of these can help deal with the questions that may arise in relation to these books.
Hopefully, the success of these novels can open the path for more Christian fiction being accepted in the mainstream. I, for one, would not mind seeing other authors taking on eschatological themes and theories in better written stories.
There is also a radio dramatisation available. Check the dramatisation page for details.
I was quite late in reading Left Behind, so I got to hear all about how people disagreed with the eschatology expressed in the book, but I rarely hear any comments about the quality of the series as fiction. (I'm not worried about differences in eschatology. There is one utterly unshakeable conviction I have about the end times, and that is that when Jesus comes back, there will be somebody somewhere with their Bible open, pointing at some verse in Daniel or Revelation or somewhere, and complaining, "No, no, Lord. You got it all wrong!") I do find LaHaye and Jenkins' timetable for events a little unlikely, but I'm not going to quibble over details. What I do quibble over is characters who don't act in character. It is far too common in Christian fiction for authors to treat characters as little more than a means of moving props around in order to move the plot along. In other words, authors make characters do things, not because it would make sense for that character to do it, but because "somebody has to do this, or we can't go on to the next chapter." That tendency is pretty strong in this work as well. There are also some rather gaping logical flaws in the plot. Having said that, it is a tribute to the writing ability of LaHaye and Jenkins that, despite these flaws, this book is a "page-turner" and kept me up way too late on a work night. (Oh, sure. Once I finished it, I caught myself saying, "Hang on a minute. That couldn't have worked!" but while I was reading it...) That "page-turner" trait is undoubtedly what keeps driving each book in the series onto even the secular best-seller lists. Greg Slade (April, 2000)
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