"The Rising" is the latest (thirteenth) volume in the Left Behind series. Rather than attempting to continue the story which supposedly concluded with the return of Jesus in "Glorious Appearing", "The Rising" is a prequel. It tells what happened before the Rapture. This novel focuses on Marilena Carpathia, Rayford Steele, and eventually on Nicolae Carpathia. While there are three primary characaters, there are really only two storylines here: Rayford's, and that of the Antichrist. Marilena is to be the mother of Nicolae and so her story becomes Nicolae's story as the novel progresses.
The section of the novel which focuses on Rayford begins when he was a young boy of four years old and progresses through high school, college, and his marriage to Irene. We follow Rayford as he is precociously bright and athletic and popular, to an awkward phase or two. Following each awkward phase he becomes once again even more athletic and popular in high school. His father would like him to take over the family business (he runs a tool and die shop), but Rayford wants nothing more than to be a pilot. Rayford pursues this goal, and while in college he dates the most beautiful and popular woman on campus, but he isn't happy with himself or with her because he knows that she is too shallow and materialistic. But so is Rayford in his dreams to make a lot of money as a commercial pilot and have the life he couldn't have as a child. Still, he finds in Irene a woman he can be friends with as well as love, much more so than Kitty, the beautiful and popular woman.
Marilena Carpathia is a scholar and a professor in Romania. She has an unhappy marriage to her husband, Sorin, who is also a professor. The only connection they have is an intellectual one. Marilena soon meets Viv Ivins, who helps Marilena realize her dream of having a child. Through a corporation of some sort, Marilena is able to have a child away from her husband, but with the understanding that the child is as much the corporation's as he is hers. The child, of course, is Nicolae Carpathia, the boy who will one day become the Antichrist. After he is born we see just how unusual a boy he is. He has a brilliant mind and can easily manipulate others to do his bidding, but something is simply wrong. He is frightening to his mother (as well he should be) and we see how he grows to be the man he will become.
While the section with Rayford in college and how he met his wife was probably the most interesting in the book, "The Rising" was completely unnecessary. It helped to answer questions of what the characters were like before the Rapture, but it wasn't a question that actually needed answering. There was already a sense from the Left Behind novels of what the characters were like, and the whole section on Rayford's childhood and even on Nicolae's mother felt pointless. It didn't add up to anything meaningful. There was no real plot to "The Rising", and there was no story that needed to be told.
After "Glorious Appearing" was published I read an interview with Jerry Jenkins in which he said that there would be two more Left Behind books: a prequel and a sequel. Well, we have our prequel, but on a page at the end of "The Rising" there was a mention of two more sequels to "The Rising" making it a prequel trilogy. I really liked the Left Behind series, but there was a natural storyline progression that made the series incredibly compelling and gave a reason to read the books. "The Rising" just didn't seem to have a point to it, and since we already know what happens next, there is nothing compelling at all to the novel...and yet there are going to be two more, probably focusing on Buck Williams, Tsion ben Judah, and other characters from the series. The only reason to read this novel is if someone has read all the other Left Behind books and even though the story is finished, still can't get enough of these characters.