12 November 2013

Book Series Review: "Left Behind" (1-6)

Authors: Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Published: 1995-1999 by Tyndale
Synopsis: In an instant, millions of people all over the world vanish, sending those left behind into a panic as they search for their missing loved ones.  Among those still on Earth are Rayford and Chloe Steele, a father and daughter who lost the rest of their family in the disappearances, and Cameron "Buck" Williams, reporter for the worldwide news magazine Global Weekly.  When a preacher by the name of Bruce Barnes shares Biblical prophecy that sheds light on the mass disappearances, Rayford, Chloe, and Buck take it on themselves to reach those who are still living before it's too late.  Unfortunately, world leader Nicolae Carpathia, who is not what he seems, is against the Christians, and claims that he himself is the Messiah.  Biblical prophecies come to life in these novels, alongside plenty of action, suspense, and even a little romance, in the first half of the bestselling Christian book series since The Chronicles of Narnia.

Artistic Merit

Plot: 2.5/5
Though I have read Revelation through at least four times, the visions that John has in that book are so strange, it's hard to come down with an exact interpretation of what they are talking about.  Other end-times prophecies, whether from Jesus or in the Old Testament, are just as difficult to interpret.  That said, though this series gets off to a good start, some of the events contained within sound more like something from a SyFy channel movie than anything that will ever actually happen.  In the last two books, when demons are visibly seen attacking and killing people, I couldn't believe what I was reading.  Your feelings may be different based on your interpretation of Biblical prophecy.

Writing: 2/5
Despite some complaints elsewhere, I thought the dialogue was done well; however, there seemed to be too much of it.  Instead of luridly describing what happens to the victims of the various judgments, the authors talk about it for a few paragraphs, then go right back to what's going on with Rayford, Chloe, Buck, and Hattie.  Seriously, if you want people to realize how terrible the "bowl judgments" would be, why not make it more detailed?

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4/5
Regardless of the theology behind the series' events, Chloe, Buck, Rayford, Bruce, and others put their lives on the line to spread the message of Jesus, and regularly show courage in the face of fear.

Sexual Content: 4/5
It is implied that a woman is pregnant as a result of an illicit affair.  A minor female character is said to be a lesbian.

Language: 4/5
Slang expressions such as "heckuva," "dang," and "bull" are used a few times each, and there is some name-calling.

Violence: 3/5
As mentioned above, the mass attacks aren't gone into detail that much, though your mind's eye may find them disturbing.  Though not terribly graphic, there is quite a bit of violence contained within these books.

Drugs: 4.5/5
Smoking and drinking are referenced, but shown to be wrong.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 2/5
There's little within these books that isn't intense.  Between the aftermath of the mass disappearances, the deaths from the disasters, and the killings by the hordes of demons, this is pretty scary stuff, though it could have been scarier if more details had been given about the latter two subjects.

Other: 4/5
Some people may have problems with the theology behind this series...but, if you do, why would you read it?

Final Score: 2.25/5
Christian fiction is my favorite genre of literature.  Though I've read countless books by numerous authors over the years, nothing keeps me coming back like the works of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Bill Myers, Bodie Thoene, and their contemporaries.  I'm glad that Left Behind brought Christian fiction to the masses; unfortunately, it seems to also have given it a bad name, as countless online critics--including some Christians--have found the whole thing to be a travesty.  I had intended to read the entire series; now, I think I'll stop at number six.  This series may have legions of fans, but I'm not one of them; I'll stick to my favorite authors.

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