A novel explores the impact of the Christian apocalypse on a small group of survivors.
Shaw (The 1961 Voyage Through the Big Creek Wilderness, 2014) structures his new book around the framework of the end times outlined in the book of Revelation and elsewhere in Scripture. These end times have a fairly strict (and much-debated among Christians) chronology. Christians are “raptured” directly to heaven; those left behind face the Great Tribulation, during which the Antichrist sets up a barbaric world rulership for seven years. His reign culminates in World War III and the battle of Armageddon, after which Jesus returns to Earth, judges the living, and establishes his Millennial Kingdom, a thousand years of blissful peace on Earth. A final confrontation with Satan follows, along with the end of time itself. This basic material has been crafted into countless fictional variations. Shaw’s is lean and full of conversational slang, centering on the adventures of a handful of characters, including physicist Bill Davenport and family man Sean McFadden, who navigate the radically altered landscape of the post-rapture world (“The cost of a ticket to ride on the Rapture flight was to have a firm faith in Jesus Christ”). Likewise readers are introduced to Mira Singer, the young woman who marries the Antichrist, Sal Lom, and bears his child. But the speed of the narrative is such that none of these characters is ever fleshed out. In Shaw’s version of the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus rules the nations of the Earth with the help of lieutenants like Moses, Elijah, and, oddly, George Washington. Although King Jesus rules benignly over humans who are presumably morally pure, readers are told that murder, theft, and adultery still happen in the Kingdom. The fight that Shaw orchestrates between Jesus and Satan at the book’s climax reads more like a bloody video game sequence than anything John the Evangelist might have envisioned, and the novel as a whole shares that same fevered vibe.
An exciting, colorful, if downright surreal tale based on the book of Revelation.