Fans of the Left Behind series (which will conclude with the final book, GLORIOUS APPEARING in March 2004) have wondered what's next for the co-authors. For Jerry Jenkins the road has led to a new trilogy, which begins with SOON.
SOON is a futuristic thriller. The prologue, which starts with some hard-edged powerful writing, is more in-your-face chilling than anything in the Left Behind series. It's edgy and graphic. It is the reader's opening clue that Jenkins is pushing the envelope further with this new series.
The story is set in 36 P3. What is that, you ask? World War III ended in the Fall of 2009, and with it the world as we know it has changed. The religious war has eliminated entire countries and redefined the world, and a tsunami caused by exploding nuclear warheads has obliterated most of Asia, Hawaii and Southern California.
The war's result: the world ends up committed more than ever to peace. How can this be achieved? By banning religion and enforcing a law where anyone caught practicing their faith is punished with death.
The United States is now divided into the United Seven States of America, and its National Peace Organization seeks out religious terrorists in the goal of maintaining peace. This story takes place in the 36th year after the war's end, post-Word War III, or P36.
By the time readers have gone through the opening chapters, Jenkins has laid out a huge concept. Thinking about the wars over the centuries where man has fought over religious turf and religious beliefs, readers will take pause at the concept of life without religious conflict. Jenkins is at his best when he lays out an idea like this. He plays with it from a number of angles, and by the time he is done, readers have moved into this new world to hear the story.
Paul Stepola is a zealous agent in the National Peace Organization. He takes his role as an enforcer seriously, and travels around the country killing believers on sight. Along the way he starts to see some startling new trends as there are some unexplained supernatural events, which defy meaning. The NPO labels them as conspiracies, but Stepola starts to see them as signs of something else --- a force that is greater than man, but illegal.
After he has a miraculous healing of his own after a blinding accident, he recognizes that religion is a force that should not be denied. He begins to work with religious zealots to spread the word of God while embracing the concept that the rapture will be coming "soon." Thus there is an urgency to get religious information into the hands of those who are not yet committed, as only believers will be assumed into heaven.
While I appreciated the concepts outlined in SOON, there are times where I felt the writing hastened the story along way too quickly. There needed to be more tension between Stepola seeing a concept and embracing it. All too often the reader sees the challenge and the setup, and the resolution within a few paragraphs instead of exploring it with more tension, or questioning.
Also, whenever I read Jenkins' writing I harken back to my college English professor who once told me after hearing the dialogue in one of my stories --- "people do not talk like that." He was right. The words I used were herky and jerky, and not as smooth as the natural cadence in people's phrasing. I always think of this reading Jenkins. His dialogue should be punched up, as well as descriptions of body language and personality. It's all black and white, and the characters plod more than glide. The awkwardness of the writing becomes more apparent when so much energy has been put into the set up and the plot.
That said, when I read the last page, I was wondering what happens next. The futuristic angle had drawn me into the overarching premise, and after years of listening to the nightly news filled with stories fraught with religious conflict, the concept of life without religious tension definitely gets a reader thinking Those who enjoy wondering what if, those who want to know how others have had their faith tested and emerged stronger, and those who enjoy futuristic theories will be interested in SOON.
Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on August 25, 2003