Monday, November 28, 2005
With "Shadowed", author Jerry Jenkins brings to a close the trilogy he began with "Soon" and "Silenced". Jenkins is best known as the co-author of the "Left Behind" series and Jenkins was the writer of that series while Tim LaHaye provided the scriptural background. Here Jenkins is on his own and he tells a story set midway through the 21st Century. Several years from now there will be a World War III and it will be a war based on religion. Out of the ashes of this war will come a worldwide fear and distrust of religion and the new World Government that is created makes as one of its first act of completely banning religion of any kind. The world has lived in relative Godless peace but there are still pockets of underground believers.
"Soon" introduced us to Paul Stepola, a top agent with the National Peace Office and his job is to infiltrate cells of "believers" and arrest them, breaking up the Christians. To better do this he researches and researches and reads the contraband Bible and as he continues to work against the Christians he comes closer and closer to belief until he can no longer deny that there is a God and that Christ is Lord. But Paul still works for the NPO and his new fellow Christians asks if he will work from the inside as a double agent. He agrees. In "Silenced" Paul is working deeper inside and has aroused some suspicion but his "success" in various jobs has protected him even while Believers pray for various large scale miracles which God has delivered. Finally, near the end of "Silenced" the leader of the World Government is issuing a decree that within 60 Days every citizen must sign a statement that they publicly renounce religion. But for a Believer this is Peter denying Christ and they are not willing to do so. Paul knows that this is the end of his status as a double agent when the 60 Days is up and he doesn't sign. The Believers give an ultimatum. If the decree is not rescinded they will pray that God will unleash the 10th Plague of the plagues that inflicted Egypt in the time of Pharoah: The Plague of the First Born. The decree is not rescinded and God unleashes the plague and every first born male on the planet who is not a believer or have a believer as a parent drops dead.
And so we begin "Shadowed". Paul is known to be a first born son and when Paul and his own first born son are still alive he needs to go in hiding. Paul's father in law is also a high ranking NPO official and one who is vehemently anti-religion and is grieving for his own adult son. Paul goes on the run to a underground group of believers and his wife, Jae, also comes to profess faith in Christ.
Since this is written by a Christian author and the Christians are the good guys we know that God will come through and things will change. Nobody on the planet can deny there is a God, but they still do not all worship. This "Incident" as it is called is the last major event of the series, though there is still a little bit of action as the Christians gain more worldwide support.
I finished this book because I started the series and if it is at all readable I want to finish. This book and this series suffers from the same issues that plague (pun intended) the Left Behind series: bad writing. Jenkins can come up with some interesting ideas and he writes in such an easy style that the books go by very quickly...but they aren't very good. Everything is so simplistic and one sided and heavy handed in his novels (and I can say this after reading 12 Left Behind Books, 1 Left Behind prequel, and these 3 Underground Zealot novels). There is enough compelling ideas in the story that I want to see how he delivers the conclusion of the story and how he gets there, but there is a lot of cringing and wishing that the craft improves. But he isn't that kind of writer and this isn't that kind of a book. "Shadowed" is lightweight (though semi-violent and semi-graphic) fiction with a Christian perspective, but I wouldn't hold this book up as something to celebrate how "Christian" fiction can be just as good as the best of "secular" fiction. There's just a little too much sugar here for it to be good for you.