Anticipation was huge before last year's release of GLORIOUS APPEARING, the twelfth book in the "Left Behind" series. These books, which have sold more than 60 million copies, introduced a worldwide audience to a number of key characters like Rayford Steele, Nicolae Carpathia and Viv Ivins. In LEFT BEHIND, the initial installment, readers encounter these characters for the first time when they are adults.
With a printing of 1.1 million copies, THE RISING premiered as #1 on the USA Today bestseller list. The entire book switches back and forth between two strands of characters --- Nicolae Carpathia and his family, and Ray Steele. The authors answer crucial questions that were never explained in the previous books. Where was the anti-christ, Nicolae Carpathia, born? Who were his parents and what process surrounded their selection? From the opening pages, you plunge into the life of Marilena Titt, Nicolae's mother. The novel reveals how the spiritual world touches Nicolae before he's even born. Also, spiritual elements are an integral part of Nicolae's conception and how his mother was chosen. In LEFT BEHIND and the subsequent books, Viv Ivins is a minor character and a servant-like figure to Nicolae. Yet in THE RISING, Ivins is known as Viviana Ivinisova, and plays a major role as Nicolae Carpathia's spiritual mentor and guide.
What was Ray Steele like as a boy growing up and what drew him into life as an airline pilot? How did Ray's spiritual life develop or not develop as a young boy? As with the other "Left Behind" books, spiritual truth is woven into the fiber of this story. For example, as a young elementary student, Ray meets one of his friends, Bobby, who pushes to see if Ray is a Christian. Like Bobby says, "It's not about religion…it's about being a true Christian."
"I am!" Ray says.
"Not unless you've got Jesus in your heart."
Readers learn about the spiritual background of Ray Steele and why he is one of the characters "left behind" in the opening pages of the first book in the series.
Many people will identify when Ray's father tries to push his son into a particular profession. Ray resists this sort of push and determines a different course for his life. He loves airplanes and decides to become an airline pilot. How Ray meets and marries his wife, Irene, is an integral part of the book.
Legions of "Left Behind" fans will enjoy the pace of THE RISING and spending time with the characters. Unfortunately, it doesn't take readers right up to the beginning of Book 1. As the authors worked on this storyline, they found that it could not be contained in one novel. Three books will be written to develop the various storylines and characters. The next title releases in November 2005, with the third book scheduled for Spring 2006.
I've listened to numerous publishing insiders who love to knock the "Left Behind" series. They say it's predictable and contrived, in addition to many other negatives. I've read them all, and for me it's the characters, the solid message of spiritual truth, and the page-turning action that continue to draw me to the series. I especially enjoyed THE RISING, and I look forward to the next one.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on March 1, 2005