Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tribulation Force by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins

This is the second book in the “Left Behind” series, which has become almost as popular as Harry Potter. I don’t know that all the folks reading the books buy into all of it, but I’m willing to bet the majority of them feel comfortable identifying with the main characters beliefs. This isn’t so much a book review as a few thoughts about the series and why it may be so successful. I’m putting it here rather than over on SHOT’S SHACK, because I try to keep that place free of controversy.

Those who know me are probably surprised that I picked this particular book, but I did have a good reason. The head librarian here feels that we have all fallen into a rut, at least in the books we read. As part of our ‘reader advisory’ training we all have to choose books (fiction or non-fiction), which we generally would not read.

I started with Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods”, in which Bryson talks about his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with an old friend. My inspiration there was my former co-worker, Michelle who is succeeding where Bryson failed. As I said in my brief talk about that book I don’t camp and I don’t walk all that much, so I’m fascinated by those who do. Actually, I was pretty active as a kid, often camping or sleeping outside several nights each summer. It wasn’t unusual for a three or four of us to hike or ride our bikes to the nearby forest and spend the day. I’ve also camped out in the California at least three or four times, that I recall, back when I was stationed here in the mid-1970s.

Back when I worked in New York I was frequently asked for books in the “Left Behind” series and its spin-offs. We generally tried to keep multiple copies available. My familiarity with the material came from reviews in the professional literature, as I wasn’t interested in reading the books, nor were any of my friends that I was aware of picking up the series.

According to Biblical prophecy, at some point those who have been ‘born-again’ shall be brought up to Heaven in an event known as The Rapture. There they will join with all the saints who have preceded them and reside in Heaven. After this those who have not been saved shall witness the coming of the Anti-Christ and suffer seven years of war and turmoil, The Tribulation, until Christ returns to reign on Earth for a thousand years. You can find a number of sites on the web that will explain this in sometimes differing detail, but this is as basic an explanation as I can give. Having been raised Roman Catholic I don’t recall this being talked about a lot back in Catechism, but we’re going back forty plus years after all.

The series features four people (an airline pilot, his daughter, a journalist and a minister) who are ‘left behind’ when the Rapture takes members of the families and friends. They come together to try and understand what has happened, only to realize that Biblical prophecy is happening. The books detail how this affects the main characters and the rest of the world, as things progress towards the final confrontation between Christ and anti-Christ.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that while a tad preachy, the books are enjoyable as fiction. If you can accept Harry on his broom, you can certainly go along with some of the mystical/spiritual happenings that take place during the story. The ‘good guys’ are flawed and make mistakes while the character of Nicolae Carpathia is nicely evil and manipulative as the Anti-Christ. The tale is a bit simplistic for my tastes and I felt that there was a bit of Catholic bashing going on. I can certainly see why the book won’t have many Jewish or Muslim readers as neither of those faiths are shown in a favorable light except for those members who realize their error and ‘come to Christ.’

I’m not so much going to recommend the book as I am going to suggest you might want to skim a few chapters just to see what so many folks are reading.

By the way, the books in the series have also been adapted to audio and for a graphic novel series. In fact, we have the first two books in the series (each book is adapted into four graphic novels)) among our Graphic Novel collection here at the library. The audio adaptations are with full-casts, sound effects and music.
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