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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Back to the Tyndale House of "The Rising" Son

The Left Behind books have become a literary trainwreck for me: I know I shouldn't look because it's going to be awful, but since I've read all of them over the past six years anyway I feel compelled to turn and stare, just in case I've "missed" something that will make so much of the previous time in the series worth it. Book #8, The Mark was the last time there was a thrill here, and even with the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Himself coming into the fray of what was supposed to have been the final installment, it was a letdown. Part of it is that I think Jerry Jenkins wanted to be respectful toward the subject matter and play some things safe, but toward the end he began playing it too safe. In all brutal honesty, the entrance of Jesus Christ was about as exciting as a pro wrestling comeback by George "The Animal" Steele. Here it is from page 203 of the hardcover edition:
Heaven opened and there, on a white horse, sat Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
"ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzz... it is? He where? What channel?"

Now imagine someone like, say, comic book artist Alex Ross (creator of DC Comics' Kingdom Come and Earth X for Marvel) handling this same situation:

Without warning, Armageddon paused.

Ray gazed across the plain toward the brunt of Carpathia's forces. No movement. It was as if the forces of the Antichrist had stopped... themselves?

He turned toward Jerusalem. The ancient city that loremasters taught had been born of neighbor's friendship had been wracked and mangled beyond all recognition. Not in all the centuries since the glory of Solomon had Jerusalem received so grievous a wound as was inflicted upon her in this one hour. But even there, now only silence.

A silence among his own forces, Ray now realized.

A silence over their enemy.

A silence in the heavens.

Without warning, it came. And to Ray it seemed as the very fabric of space and time had divided. The miracle of the Red Sea, on a scale of the power cosmic itself. The curtain of known physics buckled and surrendered to a force far beyond mortal ken.

Light poured through the rift, illumined the ruined metropolis. And then, at once the height of creation and the breadth of a man of Earth, came One that not even Carpathia, with all the legions of Hell at his command, dared to challenge.

A thousand angels, of every color that fevered dreams might conceive, came up behind Him.

And Ray, overwhelmed by the spectacle, staggered and fell to his knees.

The end of Carpathia had... no! Not Carpathia. The end not of Carpathia, but of death, and entropy, and every vile thing that had troubled humanity in even the depths of his heart. All of this would pass away as the stuff of creation was repaired, reoriented, made new before his very eyes!

It wasn't everyday that you got to witness the destruction of your own universe, but Ray found that he'd still managed to crack a smile, here at the end of all things.

Now, THAT woulda been a heckuva style to read it in!

Anyway, I had no idea this was happening so soon until last night but they threatened to do it, and it looks like Jenkins and his collaborator Tim LaHaye did find a way to squeeze more mileage out of the Second Coming (as if it wasn't finality enough). March 1st is when Tyndale House publishes The Rising, a prequel set before the Rapture took place at the beginning of the main series. It's supposed to focus a lot of attention on Nicolae Carpathia: how he spent his youth and came to be an Antichrist-in-waiting. And to Jenkins' and LaHaye's credit, after reading the online excerpt from Chapter One it did pique my curiosity an awful lot about how they're handling the origins of these characters. But The Rising is going to be the first of a prequel trilogy, followed by the REAL final chapter taking place a thousand years after Glorious Appearing.

Fellas, Stephen King only needed seven volumes to tell his Dark Tower saga. That's the same number needed to see Harry Potter graduate from Hogwarts. Do you really have to make Left Behind be sixteen full-length novels that your fans will feel obligated to plow through after paying good money for? Couldn't this have been truncated down... say, to one novel for each year of the Tribulation, then one prequel and the post-millenial follow-up?

I'm not even gonna begin to touch the "kids' series" or the graphic novels. Or the board game, the rumored videogame, the whispers of plans to make action figures based on the series ("geez that's wonderful a Fortunato doll that drools real Slime(tm)")...

And maybe it's because I no longer fully subscribe to the belief in a pre-tribulation rapture, like most Christians around me do, that's dampered my enthusiasm for this series. That doesn't mean I entirely embrace any of the other notions of how the end times play out either: to be honest, I don't know how it will occur. But I'm not going to pretend comprehending its design either. There's only one thing I've come to be certain of: that when it happens, however it happens, it will be completely in agreement with everything that was foretold about it, in every possible way. At the same time, it will be like NOTHING that we have imagined or theorized that it would be. That's the way God works, the way He's always worked... and why would He change that formula with a few minutes left on the gameclock anyway?

But there's one other thing that caught my eye when I was at the Left Behind website last night. This promo graphic for The Rising seemed awfully, awfully familiar:

It's that kid, with his eyes and the way he's pointing that finger. What's he supposed to be anyway? And then it hit me... of COURSE, and it's pure genius. That kid in The Rising promo...

...is none other than Anthony Fremont from the classic "It's A Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone! NOW things start to make sense about Left Behind. Obviously the Rapture happened when Anthony tried to make his dinosaur TV show appear like always but a weird fluke of nature temporarily dampened his powers and all the TV's channels inexplicably began showing Benny Hinn nonstop. It was more than little Anthony could take... so he wished away planet Earth's entire population of born-again Christians into the cornfield!! There's your "Pre-Trib Rapture", folks.

As for Benny Hinn himself, millions of his disciples suddenly found themselves numb-struck with horror as Hinn, just as he started to "lay hands" on one of his "crippled" staff members, was suddenly turned into a giant jack-in-the-box. "A jack-in-the-box with HINN'S ugly face!" little Anthony Fremont yelled aloud, as he wished the dinosaur show to come back on.

That's a real good thing you did, Anthony. It's fine and we're happy and we're all good. We're only thinking happy thoughts...


Dave said...

Holy crap, Billy Mumy is the antichrist!

I wonder if that would make Dr. Smith from Lost in Space the False Prophet. Hmm.

Good post. Feel free to rewrite "Glorious Appearing." Heck, I may even read it then. (I pulled out of the LB cult after book three. That's the peril of having an English degree--you're less forgiving about the quality of the writing.)

I hopped over from E.O. I may poke around here a bit more, if you don't mind.


Chris Knight said...

If Bill Mumy *is* the AntiChrist, then Mira Furlan MUST be the Whore of Babylon! How can she NOT be? Heck the name of the place *was* "Babylon 5"! Look at those red and purple outfits that Delenn wore... and couldn't that entire space station be considered a multi-colored beast with many heads (all the ambassadors) that she sat upon/at the head of? Look at all the blood she spilled in not one but THREE major wars. And just what *was* she doing all that time in her quarters with Bill Mumy's Lennier anyway?

Maybe this IS the end times after all: after all these revelations everything is becoming so clear :-)

Anonymous said...

16 full length books. Didn't John of Patmos accomplis the task in 22 chapters?

rod in dc

Chris Knight said...

LOL!!! Good point Rod :-)

Anonymous said...

I don't read Tim LaHaye. IMHO, his already-prodigious, non-fiction writings of the 70's and '80's had exceeded the scope of his understanding, and hence, his authority.

Quantity ain't quality. And presumption ain't truth.