Jerry B. Jenkins
Hodder and Stoughton;2003;Large Format Pbk.;
£ 9.99, 360p, ISBN 0340862483

This is the first in a new series of end time novels, apparently to be called The Beginning of the End, by the joint- author of the best-selling Left Behind series. For those who have avidly devoured the latter this will be an instant hit. The events described pre-date the rapture but this series does not appear to be a direct prequel.

Post World War Three, when the very surface of the earth was changed, the new international government is determined to eliminate war for good, targeting religion as the chief source of conflict. Christians, viewed as fanatical terrorists, are forced underground and the National Peace Organisation ruthlessly seeks to destroy them.

Paul Stepola, an N.P.O. Agent, is eager for any opportunity to seek out and destroy the Christian underground and he is not impressed by the spate of bizarre events, which the believers call “miracles”. Until, while investigating mysterious white-fire oil gushers, he has an accident, which leaves him blinded. He uses his forced inaction as an opportunity to listen to the New Testament in order to study the mind of the enemy. Through his pain and anger Paul eventually guesses that the man who is doing most to support him in hospital is one of those hated Christians – but somehow he feels loath to expose him. Soon, after experiencing a miracle of his own, the N.P.O. Agent has become a double agent.

As with the Left Behind series this book is a page-turner. The society it describes is only too easy to imagine – how often do we hear religion castigated as the cause of all the world’s ills? My only criticism is the rapidity with which Paul Stepola is converted from being a rapid persecutor, with no knowledge of spiritual realities, to being a believer ready to lay down his life for a Lord he barely knows. At least St. Paul had a thorough grounding in Scripture before he set off down the Damascus Road – he just needed to apply it correctly. Hopefully his namesake will acquire a more convincing relationship with Jesus in the next book.

Contributed by Susan K. Brown, MCLIP, who works as a Team Librarian at Tunbridge Wells Library with special responsibility for Local Studies.