(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Soon: The Beginning of the End by Jerry B. Jenkins, coauthor of the Left Behind series (1995-2007) with Tim LaHaye, has a similar theme to the popular series, which deals with the end-times. In Jenkins’s solo work, warring religious factions have caused World War III, which has brought devastating destruction to nations around the globe and has given birth to a world government dedicated to eradicating all religions. Thirty-six years after the war, Dr. Paul Stepola, expert on religions and investigator for the National Peace Organization (NPO), is cleaning out the effects of his deceased mother. He discovers a letter written to him by his long-dead father. The letter testifies of Christ and urges Paul to become a man of God. Horrified, Paul volunteers for the Zealot Underground, a task force formed to wipe out lingering religious believers. He gets an assignment to investigate an elderly widow in San Francisco who is rumored to be holding secret religious meetings.

In San Francisco, Paul and a team of NPO SEALs storm a building where people are praying and reading the Bible. They wipe out all the inhabitants, but a sudden earthquake kills everyone on the team except Paul. Paul’s next assignment is to investigate a pillar of fire above a burning oil well in the former state of Texas. Once there, he uses Christian code words he heard in San Francisco to expose a Christian roughneck, who is then bludgeoned to death. Paul’s interrogations are interrupted by another blazing gusher, and Paul is burnt and airlifted to a Chicago hospital, where he is told he will be permanently blind.

While recovering, Paul is angry at the world and at his wife, who decides to leave him. He is persistently visited by a black volunteer, Stuart “Straight” Rathe, whose wife and children were killed in a car wreck. Straight teaches Paul to play chess. Paul also spends time listening to New Testament tapes to find clues to help him unearth secret Christians.

Straight escorts Paul to Washington, D.C., to receive an award for bravery. There, Paul meets Bia Balaam, a ruthless woman who...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Butler, Tamara. Review of Soon. Library Journal 128, no. 18 (November, 2003): 64. Very brief review of the novel as a fast-paced thriller likely to please fans.

Gates, David. “The Pop Prophets.” Newsweek 143, no. 21 (May 24, 2004): 45-50. An article on Tim LaHaye and Jenkins’s successful literary partnership combining religion with science fiction, with biographical information on Jenkins.

Lobdell, William. “Writer Alters Landscape of Christian Fiction: A Coauthor of Bestsellers Hopes to Reach an Even Wider Audience with His First Solo Effort.” Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2003, p. B2. A profile of the coauthor of the Left Behind series that examines his beliefs and his motivations for writing Soon.

Lyons, Gene. “The Apocalypse Will Be Televised.” Harper’s Magazine 309, no. 1854 (November, 2004): 85-90. A critical, largely unfavorable discussion of the success of the Left Behind series of thrillers by Jenkins and LaHaye. Lyons objects to depicting the end-times as an action/adventure melodrama.

Thorn, Patti. “Left Behind Author Doesn’t Stray Far.” Review of Soon. Rocky Mountain News, August 29, 2003, p. 28D. Review of Soon that likens the work to the story in the Left Behind series. Brief discussion of author.