Saturday, 17 November 2012

Apocalyptic environmentalism

A review of "The Rapture" by Liz Jensen.
When I first started reading this novel I wondered what genre of fiction I had. It is called the rapture and has many references to apocalyptic Christians in the near future interpreting climate change and other events as signs of the end. ( Incidentally "The rapture" is not biblical but an imaginative 19th century heresy thought up by an Anglican clergyman who subsequently left the Church of England, joined the Plymouth Brethren and then went to the USA. Thus pre-tribulation rapture theology was developed in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren,and popularised in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible.) The novel set in a the future after the faith wave - a religious revival that has greatly expanded all forms of fundamentalism throughout the religions of the world. It is a novel about eco-warriors battling an evil corporation that does not realise the consequences of its actions - sort of. But it is also about mental health and disability as well as being a love story and examining the effectiveness of psychotherapy for seriously criminally disturbed young people. No wonder I had trouble pigeon-holing the book neatly into one simple fiction genre.
Ther are some far fetched co-incidences in the book which verge on fantasy specifically about the ability of people to predict the future through pseudo psychic powers enhanced by electro-convulsive therapy (or ECT). Ignoring these fantastic elements the book is a good thriller which follows the familiar plot of a small group of people trying to warn the world of what they know and battling with widespread unbelief and the powers of the law.
The heroine is wheelchair bound with serious issues about her disability that is the effect of a car accident. The plot makes clear that people with issues can be sympathetic and insightful psychotherapists but they can also be seriously handicapped. It is a well structured thriller dealing with topical issue of sudden climate change, tsunami and apocalypse. In dealing with religion, mental health, disability, as well as environmental issues it leaves you with plenty of things to think about after you have enjoyed the denoument.
Irvine Walsh in his Guardian review says "Would-be thriller writers should certainly pick up The Rapture; it's a master class on how to write an engaging thriller about a relevant contemporary issue while still respecting the reader's brain cells."
You can buy this book by clicking here

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti /

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