Judgment Day

Judgment Day

Book - 2004
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""Judgment Day" left "Left Behind" in its dust. The greatest Christian apocalyptic series of all time makes its debut. St. John the Divine---author of Revelations---must be twirling in his unquiet grave on Patmas. Hotter than thermonuclear fireballs."---Jack Anderson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist.
Publisher: New York : Forge Books, 2004
ISBN: 0765309157
Branch Call Number: FIC DAVID
Characteristics: 655 p. ; 25 cm

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jmikesmith
Feb 09, 2012

On the surface, this book seems like a passable pot-boiler. But when you think about it a bit, you realize that it has several problems. The story involves a group of American Christian fundamentalists. One of the founders of their group receives from God a technology that allows the development of faster-than-light spaceship engines. He co-founds the group with a recently widowed minister to fulfill God's mission, which is to re-locate the faithful to another planet to create a fully Christian world. They are opposed by a group of Satanists, led by the founder of a nation-wide chain of funeral homes who runs for political office to acquire enough power to stop the Christians. The Satanist leader and his personal assistant are the only ones who know they're really working for Satan. //

So far, so good. This blending of science fiction and Christian literature in an interesting twist on the Rapture, where the Christians lift themselves to "heaven" using God-sent technology. But although the writing is competent, the plotting isn't. Faster-than-light travel is a staple gimmick in science fiction that long-time readers accept without question. But David handles it awkwardly here, hinting at time-dilation effects, but then not following up. The technology seems mundane. Flight times to light-years-distant planets is inconsistent and glossed over. Ships are flying back and forth on regular supply runs, but the story seems to stop during the months these trips take. It's never clear how this group of civilians navigates its way through space without getting hopelessly lost. The government, urged by the Satanist leader, attacks the Christian compound, but only with ground troops. Why no aircraft to stop the spaceships? The middle section of the story covers at least 10 years, and while child characters age as expected, adult characters seem to stay in early middle age throughout. The reaction of the rest of the world to the Christian group's adventures feels wrong, understated. Their reactions to the excesses of the Satanists also seem inappropriate and strangely muted. The epilogue involves a wildly improbable set of crossed paths. //

The book's marketing, through blurbs on the book jacket, make this appear to be a pro-Christian novel of the Apocalypse, but I wonder if the blurb writers read the book. The Christians are portrayed as narrow-minded, bigoted, and overtly racist, not as the heroes of God the blurbs suggest they are. The only likeable character in the book is a non-fundamentalist Christian mediator, who seeks to find a middle ground between the space-going Christians and the Satanist-led government (although few of the major Christian characters knows of Satan's influence). The blurb gets the name of the Christian group wrong and mis-identifies the focus of the plot. The Christians are shown as disapproving of sex except for reproduction, but have no problem killing innocent bystanders (along with some truly evil people) to get their way. Any sex in the book is always off-stage, but graphic violence is front and centre. //

Finally, there are technical problems. The book has 150 chapters in 655 pages. Almost every scene gets a new chapter. It keeps the pace moving, but is tiring and unnecessary. Every chapter begins with a quotation, but one quotation appears twice, just a few chapters apart. One character's name is given incorrectly in a scene -- it's clear which character is meant, but another character's name is used for her, and the other character is nowhere near this particular scene, so it's not just a minor confusion. That's sloppy editing. Scene transitions are sometimes awkward and confusing. The action jumps forward sometimes months at a time with major plot developments given in casual dialogue as past history. Most of the characters are two-dimensional stereotypes. Motives and methods for many of the characters' actions are clumsy or absent. //

Overall, I cannot recommend this book.

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