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Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: Soon by Jerry Jenkins

I am pleased to be presenting this book review by my friend and fellow aspiring author Jacki Newberry. Please welcome her and enjoy the review below. You can find this review, as well as the other two books of this trilogy, published at her blog, along with many more. So check it out and drop her a line. =)

Soon by Jerry Jenkins

Paul Stepola, an agent working for the National Peacekeeping Organization (NPO), has been assigned to enforce compliance with the world government's prohibition on religion. Paul relishes his job and is good at it. He is determined to expose underground religion--flush it out, expose it, and kill it--until his life is turned upside down and he is forced to look at life in a different way.
As Paul begins to unravel the truth about what he has found, events taking place around the world start to make sense. Something big is coming--something that can't be stopped. And it is coming soon.

--Soon by Jerry Jenkins, Copyright ©2004 by Jerry B. Jenkins, published by Tyndale House Publishers

My Review

In 2004, in the midst of finishing up his best-selling “Left Behind” series with Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins wrote a separate trilogy, also dealing with the End Times. The first book in this trilogy, Soon, introduces us to Dr. Paul Stepola, an agent for the National Peace Organization. Following the religion-based World War III, all religions of the world have been outlawed. The map of the United States has been redrawn, reducing the number of states from 50 to 7, and the country’s name changed to the United Seven States of America. The NPO is the USSA’s agency dedicated to keeping the peace, in part by eradicating any covert religious factions that may rear their ugly heads.

Paul, who doctored in religious studies, is an eager participant in the agency’s fight against religion. When a new department is formed to fight one-on-one with these factions, Paul joins them and is quickly drawn into the front lines of the battle. Injured on his first assignment in San Francisco, he relishes the fact that he was able to kill two of the zealots and wound a third. On his next assignment in Houston, a member of the Christian sect there is beaten to death in front of him, but Paul does nothing. He’s on the verge of making his third kill when an oil well explodes, blasting a column of white light into the sky and Paul is blinded.

Determined to get to the bottom of the events, Paul studies the New Testament for clues, but the more he studies, the more he begins to question his own lack of faith. Before his trip to San Francisco, Paul uncovered a letter from his now-deceased father where his father proclaimed his belief in God. His leader and mentor in the Army had been outed as a believer and was killed. Now he was experiencing events that could only be described as miracles. He chooses to make the leap of faith…and his sight is miraculously restored. (Is any of this starting to sound a bit familiar to anyone?)

Paul becomes a double agent of sorts, carrying out assignments for the NPO while alerting the Christian underground to any attacks that may be coming their way. Christians across the country have been praying for the persecuted and praying for a sign that will wake the world up and show them how wrong they have been for denying God. When God grants their prayers—in a most stunning, amazing, hard-to-believe fashion—will the world finally change their ways?

Tune in to Silenced to find out!

No, seriously. Soon ends on this miracle and we don’t know how the world reacts until we start reading the next book (which I will start tomorrow).

I purchased Soon when it was released and read the first two or so chapters, then decided to put it aside and wait until the other two novels, Silenced and Shadowed were released so I could read all three books in the series back to back. Here it is, six years later, and I’m finally getting around to reading them—or rather, listening to them as I’m listening to audio versions I checked out from the library. The books I bought are buried in storage and I don’t know when I’m ever going to see them again.

I was a bit startled listening to some of the anti-Christian passages. The people of this era who embrace the anti-religion laws speak with such disdain toward believers that I had to remind myself that the story was written by Jerry Jenkins, a man of faith. The antipathy toward Christians is so harsh, and yet so very believable for the society Jenkins created that openly eschews religion. If the events he wrote of ever truly came to pass, I can imagine this is exactly how those who hate religion would speak.

Paul’s conversion is believable considering his experiences, but I couldn’t help wondering why it didn’t come sooner. Paul has a doctorate in religion so he’s studied God. I can’t help wondering how someone can go so far as to get a doctorate in something without coming to believe in it or didn’t already in his heart believe in. Of course, to get his degree, Paul had to study a number of religions, not just Christianity, and of course, events had to happen in the manner and time Jenkins plotted them, so I can accept this little oddity. But to me, it is just that…odd. I mean, how can you study religion and not believe? Even just a little?

I also found it a bit odd that Paul doesn’t see himself in Saul. Saul, in the New Testament, persecuted and killed Christians before he was blinded by a bolt of light on his way to Damascus. After three days, God restored his sight and Saul became Paul, a believer in Christ. Dr. Paul Stepola persecuted and killed Christians before he was blinded by a bolt of light. Okay, he wasn’t on his way to Damascus and it took more than three days for his sight to be restored, but once he chose to believe, his sight was restored. I can only assume Jenkins didn’t point out the similarity to his readers because he wanted them to make the connection for themselves. Which I did .

Other than these, I found the story to be a good and engaging read, even if it was a times a bit scary. Jerry Jenkins is a terrific writer and I can’t wait to start the next book in this series, Silenced.

I give this story FOUR AND A HALF STARS.

originally posted June 29th 2010 at Jacki's blog. Posted here by permission.

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