The Rapture by Liz Jensen
Finished: Sep.23, 2009
First Published: Aug. 11, 2009
Genre: apocalyptic, science fiction, eco thriller
That summer, the summer all the rules began to change, June seemed to last for a thousand years.
Reason for Reading: Apocalyptic fiction is one of my favourite sub-genres. I received a review copy from Random House Canada.
Summary: It is the not too distant future and the world has entered a new phase, one where global warming has happened and temperatures, weather and climates are no longer what they used to be. Gabrielle Fox is a wheelchair bound art therapist who has started a new job at a Psychiatric Hospital, home to Britain's most dangerous children and she has been assigned the most dangerous of all, Bethany Krall, who brutally stabbed her mother to death with a screwdriver when she was 12. Bethany also predicts the future, not just any future but future natural disasters (storms, earthquakes, etc.) and as Gabrielle realizes each one comes true she begins to believe her patient and feels guilt for not warning the thousands of people who die. A strange bond develops between therapist and patient with the position of authority often switching.
Comments: I'll start by saying I neither believe in the evangelical concept of the Rapture nor that global warming has anything to do with human produced carbon dioxide. These are the two main controversies presented in this book. I will also say that ultimately, I did enjoy the plot; the story of the Gabrielle and Bethany, the predictions and the ultimate race for survival as the apocalypse approaches.
Within this world there are two extremist groups; one The Planetarians who know humans are but a blip in the age the Earth and our time is over as dominant species and nature is taking its natural course as it has over millions of years in the past and a new organism will take our place as dominant species. On the opposite end there is The Fifth Wave, a mass convergence and conversion to Christianity who believe The Rapture is at hand. They strive to bring their friends and loved ones to the Lord so they to may rise above the clouds in the rapture. These people happily await the coming of the rapture. Neither of these extremist groups take a major part in the story until well into the book but near the beginning, being a Catholic, I wondered "well, what about Catholics? The author must know we don't believe in the rapture?" My answer came by page 75 when the main character states during a discussion of disparaging religion is general:
" I was taught by nuns," I tell him. " They couldn't see how tribalistic they were. Or how pagan. As for the traditions, it seems to me that the Catholic Church enjoys just making things up as it goes along. You could almost admire its creativity."
Right, anti-Catholic view expressed, noted and understood. Catholics are not ever referred to again in the book. I was not impressed with the overall anti-religion attitude carried on throughout the whole book. Though I don't share the same convictions as the Christians portrayed here it was insulting the way they were shown as smiling, happy, ignorant people joyfully walking to their probable deaths. No respect was shown when conversation turned towards this group. The reveal that comes out about the leader is cliched and unoriginal. While on the otherhand the leader of the Planetarians is treated with respect, while professional people scoff at his ideology, he is, afterall, a man of science.
I was also underwhelmed by a love affair that happened and felt completely out of place within the story and otherwise out of character for the strong roll Gabrielle was playing elsewhere. There were pages and pages of this romantic misunderstanding drivel that I just wanted to shout "Get over it already!".
Otherwise, the book is well-written, it reads fast. The momentum is there slowly picking up and ending with a crash. Bethany was an outstanding character, the one who really shines through and kept me reading. Even with the religious problems I had, I realized the slant very early on, and accepted it as part of the story. It is fiction after all. I liked the book but didn't love it. I think other reviewers will say they have felt emotional over the book; it didn't affect me emotionally at all. I couldn't see myself as plausibly being in this world Jensen created. However, I do think this book will appeal to many people. The topic of climate change is one many readers will want to explore in this visionary apocalypse of our planet's downfall from human doings.
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