5 Stars Out Of 5
Probably the most clever book in the Left Behind series
January 2, 2017
Jenkins has written a very good piece of dystopian fiction, and I think the people who left bad reviews missed it. Let me elaborate as to why:
The Earth is flat - not literally, but there are no more mountains and most of the interesting landscapes are gone. There's no night anymore. It doesn't have any natural landmarks because the entire Earth outside of Jerusalem is basically central Kansas baking in an endless summer. It's uniformly hot, insanely bright and flat, flat, flat.
There was a river of milk and honey, but that's less about being a tourist attraction or landmark than TurboJesus not caring about metaphor or allegory. The Sorcerer Supreme said it once, so by Him he's gonna make it come true, come hell or high water. It sounds kind of...disgusting, really.
Besides, there's no tourism. People wanna see Israel and Jerusalem, but that's more about being closer to Awesome!Jesus. There's nothing else to see anyway. Himalayas? Gone. Rockies? Gone. Grand Canyon? Barringer Crater? Crater Lake? Oldoinyo Lengai? Alps? Uluru? Kilamanjaro? Mounts Fuji and Aso? All gone. Most really awesome forests are probably gone, too. Forget the Amazon rainforest, you'll never see its like again. No glaciers, either. The magnificent glaciers of Northern Alaska? The stark, forbidding beauty of Antarctica? All gone. Not even photos to remember them anymore, almost no one but TOL could care about that kind of thing, but maybe that's just as well.
Mountain climbing? That's over and done with. Did you like to ski? Ice-fishing? Hunting? Dogsledding? Building snowmen? Homemade snow ice cream, or fresh clean snow topped with hot maple syrup out of a kettle? Yeah, you'll never do any of those things again, summer's eternal and there's no snow or ice anywhere. Hiking? Camping? You could camp in your back yard in broad daylight, I guess. It would be exactly the same. There's no reason to hike again, ever. There's no untamed nature to SEE. There are no monuments, none of the great old buildings of the past, the big powerful culture artifacts that defined entire cultures and nations. All gone, burned away by Christ Almighty. He can't stand anything that might compete with him for peoples' attention, you see.
Nature is pretty much artificial now. Carnivores eat plants, fruit and leaves and nuts and such (how does that even begin to work?). No travel--why bother, when everything and everyone is the same everywhere?
There's no economy, everyone trades for whatever few things they might need. I guess all the womenfolk can weave or spin cloth and makes clothes or something, since Almighty Jeebus magically gifted everyone with bronze-age level knowhow. Almost everyone's a farmer or a carpenter or a teacher or something. Starving's impossible, everything is edible--you wander around the landscape and make a salad out of whatever's randomly growing there if you want, so it's pretty meaningless to be a farmer, really, but that's what Turbojesus thinks people should do, so that's what they busy themselves with.
Nothing in nature can hurt you anymore. No fishing, no hunting, no need. Everyone's a vegetarian most of the time. Everyone is shown eating buttery steamed produce, fried vegetables and the like. Exotic cultural dishes and exciting regional cuisines don't seem to exist. Food culture essentially doesn't exist anymore, and never will again.
There's no risk to take anymore. The only thing to be afraid of is not saying the Magic Words before you're a hundred, where you bind your soul to the Demiurge for all time. There's probably a subcommunity that's turned "cutting it close" into some sort of extreme sport, if that sort of thing is even tolerated anymore (King Horse Vaporizer might take a dim view of that kind of shenannigans). Not much entertainment in it, since you can only ever do it once, but maybe other people can gamble in it or something.
No books, stories, music or whatever that doesn't glorify Jesus. Most of the Millenial Kingdom citizens probably don't feel much in the way of boredom anyway. The Glorifieds aren't capable of boredom. All they feel is the urge to worship Jesus. Everyone but The Other Light is basically Amish, only way more boring, insular and dreary, There's no curiosity. Why bother? The universe is basically a 6000 year old terrarium and the gardener's on his throne in Israel. You can ask him any question you want anytime or anywhere you like. He might even deign to answer you.
No urge to create anything. Why bother? Art requires a live current that comes from things like pleasure, pain, anger, privation, discomfort, or a desire to be at least a little transgressive, or at the very least a drive to create something that's uniquely _yours_--and that just doesn't exist anymore. The only uncomfortable, transgressive or daring ones are going to die at 100 anyway unless they eject all of their uniqueness, and nothing they do that disrupts the social order is going to be tolerated.
Even crime is punished instantly and occasionally brutally. There's not much of it anyway. There's no secrets, even from yourself. No one seems to talk about anything other than Jesus. There's no passion. I guess most people are happy, but no one's excited. Unless it's about Jesus. I guess they get pretty passionate about ol' One Above All, since I suppose he likes that, but that's it.
No one builds anything anymore, just farmhouses, barns and the like. Communication, cell-phone implants are good for letting the biologicals do what the Glorifieds are already doing anyway, so there's that, but no one invents anything or studies anything anymore. There's no point. There's probably computers somewhere. No one really seems to care about them. Science is completely meaningless in a world of divine fiat.
Technology's a dead end. You don't need anything, you're never, ever ever going to reach the stars, and TJ will vaporize everything in a few centuries anyway and remake the world completely so anything you do will be destroyed anyway, and he takes a dim view of anything that takes your attention away from being the best worshiper you can be. Besides, farm equipment was pretty much perfected by the mid-70s anyway. A tractor is a tractor is a tractor. Most people probably just use a hoe and a spade. There might be a little light industry somewhere, or maybe just a blacksmith, another village-level job.
In short it's dry, stagnant, and stultifyingly dead. Almost no one's truly human anymore. TOL is all that's left, and they're all doomed--a century in and they'll die, unless they willingly choose to undergo their supernatural lobotomy and become proper Stepford Smilers. And in no more than a thousand years, Jesus slays them all and sends them to Hell to torture until time itself rots away.
A place made for elderly WASP authoritarian SDOs, where they don't have to cope with that messy change and challenge. If it sounds like a horrifying, terrifying, miserable place, that's okay--it's for them, not for people like you and me.
Besides, they don't want either of us there anyway. They want us dead, gone and forgotten as fast as possible.
Every time I turn around, I find myself thinking about yet ONE MORE THING that's completely gone in this sterile nightmare hell on Earth they've written, so much so that it's reminding me of the "They're dead, Dave, everybody's dead, Dave" segment from Red Dwarf. Something else that's been slaughtered, or erased or burned away, for no other reason than to satisfy MurderGod's bloated ego. And all I can do is marvel at LaHaye.
Marvel and think..."How can any decent, remotely normal human being contemplate this, the complete and utter destruction of everything natural, beautiful and GOOD, and call it anything other than a cosmic atrocity? How could anyone look at Denali, or the Grand Canyon, or the Ross Ice Shelf as it calves off icebergs the size of cities into the sea, or views footage from submersible robots of the black smokers along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and sees the myriad strange and wonderful creatures there so perfectly adapted to an utterly alien environment, or sees Van Gogh's STARRY NIGHT or the Mona Lisa or Leonardo's David, and think to themselves...
"I hate this. It's ugly, and it all needs to go. Burn this thing down and replace it with a life-size statue of a bronze-age religious figure sitting on a tacky golden throne and a few megachurches, that'll improve the ambience around here."
I think I might be in love with these Other Light characters.
Trapped in a world of enforced blandness. Crime is allowed to happen but the perpetrators are immediately executed by lightning afterwards, thereby somehow managing a Worst of Both Worlds approach to criminal justice. Everyone is forced to live to 100 whether they want to or not, and then immediately murdered if they haven't pledged allegiance to the local regime, or forced to endure up to another 900 solid years of continuing to age and degrade with no hope of the relief of death if they HAVE pledged allegiance. The world is strictly stratified, with the ruling class living in a beautiful walled-off city and occasionally sending representatives out to give members-only talks to special children's clubs, and the guy at the very top only ever interacting with people by murdering those who disagree with him and low-maintenance puppet-mastering/lobotomising everyone else. And, as if just to rub salt in the wound, God RUBBED OUT THE NIGHT SKY for some reason.
So these guys want to rebel. Of COURSE they do. But they don't know how to. They can't see a way to win. The local tyrant is LITERALLY GOD. They've been trying to oppose him however they can for ninety years now, and they haven't come up with anything that might work, and now they're all coming close to their divinely-allotted murder dates. They'd be forgiven for giving up and switching sides to save their own lives. They'd be commendable for just deciding to make a symbolic gesture out of going down fighting a hopeless battle. What they actually do, though, is fling a light into the future. They focus their last years before they die on recruiting younger members. Because, of course, there IS a chance that, one day, SOMEONE will work out how they can win. So having established that it's not gonna be them, that they personally are boned either way, they make a selfless investment in the future, going to their own deaths but founding a movement that will last the whole millenium, changing the time limit on finding a way to win from 100 years to 1000. It's not much, but it was all they could do, so they did it.
God took away EVERYTHING from these people. Freedom. Beauty. Purpose. Diversity. Any chance of equality. STARS. But they found a way to stop him from taking away their hope. And when hope was all they had left, they took it and ran with it and made the most of it.
It sounds like these people are far and away the most heroic characters in the series. While the putative protagonists sit around and busy themselves with, mostly, office politics, The Other Light do things -- great things, evil things, but they do things. You've got to pay attention to the background events, but they're there.
There's also a lot of room for side stories, since we are only shown three "windows" into the Millennial Kingdom, two at the bookends and one 93 years in.
I give Jenkins credit for writing something clever that can be read on multiple levels, it puts the Left Behind series in another perspective and, fittingly, it redeems the unsaved characters in a way that few of the other books do.