Left Behind - Tim LaHaye & Jerry B Jenkins
With the recent spate of popular atheist literature doing the rounds, a friend of mine decided to try out the competition, and picked up this (second-hand) copy of bestselling Rapture thriller Left Behind. Having been assured that it wasn't full of proselytising, I had a go at reading it, trying very hard to keep an open mind. I made it up to page 50, and even that was an effort. This book stinks.
The story starts with heroically-named pilot Rayford Steele flying his plane and thinking sinful thoughts, when the Rapture happens, and half his passengers disappear, along with numerous airline staff. Of course, no-one knows it's the Rapture, just that lots of people have vanished without trace, and Rayford's first task is getting back to land and finding out whether his wife and son have also vanished. On the same plane is strangely well-paid journalist Buck, on his way back from meeting an Israeli scientist, who has to get back to New York to investigate this mysterious disaster. There's some stuff about biblical prophecies being fulfilled, and hints of a charismatic Romanian politician called Nicolae Carpathian who is probably the Antichrist. And, er, that's as far as I got.
It's true, there's no explicit preaching, or at least not in the first few chapters; that's not why I stopped reading (though the description of Rayford's super-Christian wife is pretty nauseating; apparently she would get up at the crack of dawn to keep the house nice and clean for him, decorate the place with "frilly country knick-knacks" and send him packages of home-baked cookies). It's just that the premise is ridiculous, and the writing is appalling. I mean, I'm a genre-geek fantasy reader, I'm happy to believe all sorts of nonsense for the sake of a good story, but the Rapture is such a daft idea that suspending my disbelief takes extra effort, and that's not easy when every sentence is like a kick in the face. Maybe it's got a good plot, but I couldn't find it in me to care; there are plenty of far superior books out there and I didn't want to waste my time reading this. It makes The Da Vinci Code look like Vellum.