LaHaye, Tim and Jerry B. Jenkins. Soul Harvest. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1998. ISBN 0-8423-2925-0.
This is what happens when trilogies go bad. Paraphrasing the eternal programming language COBOL, “04 FILLER SIZE IS 90%”. According to the lumpen eschatology in which the Left Behind series (of which this is volume four) is grounded, the world will come to an end in a seven-year series of cataclysms and miracles loosely based on the book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Okay, as a fictional premise, that works for me. The problem here is that while Saint John the Divine managed to recount this story in fewer than 1600 words, these authors have to date filled twelve volumes, with Tetragrammaton knows how many more yet to come, stringing readers of the series along for more years than the entire apocalypse is supposed to take to go down. It is an accomplishment of sorts to start with the very archetypal account of fire and brimstone, wormwood and rivers running with blood, and make it boring. Precisely one paragraph—half a page in this 425 page tome—is devoted to describing the impact of of a “thousand mile square” asteroid in the the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, while dozens, nay hundreds, of pages are filled with dialogue which, given the apparent attention span of the characters (or perhaps the authors, the target audience, or all of the above), recaps the current situation and recent events every five pages or so. I decided to read the first volume of the series, Left Behind (July 2002), after reading a magazine article about the social and political impact of the large number of people (more than fifty million copies of these books have been sold to date) who consider this stuff something more than fantasy. I opted for a “bargain box” of the first four volumes instead of just volume one and so, their having already got my money, decided to slog through all four. This was illogical—I should have reasoned, “I've already wasted my money; I'm not going to waste my time as well”—but I doubt many Vulcans buy these books in the first place. Time and again, whilst wading through endless snowdrifts of dialogue, I kept thinking, “This is like a comic book.” In this, as in size of their audience, the authors were way ahead of me.

November 2003 Permalink