I just finished reading Soon (Underground Zealot Series #1) (full disclosure: affiliate link) by Jerry B. Jenkins who is one of my favorite authors from the the Left Behind series. What impressed me the most about his style is how he draws you into the characters. I found myself caring about the major characters in the Left Behind series and wanting to see what happened to them. The same thing happened in Soon.
Soon is near future sci-fi set about 30 years into the future. World War III happened and as a result the practice of religion was made illegal, driving it underground. The story follows Dr. Paul Steplova who starts out trying to find and shut down the subversive cells. It became apparent to me that this Paul's story was mirroring Paul from the New Testament, but just as I thought I had it figure out, and started looking for specific elements from Paul’s story (his Damascus road experience) Jenkins loosens the metaphor.
Jenkins is almost prescient in his look at the near future. By the middle of the Left Behind books, published in the early 2000s, the characters had what we would recognized today as smart phones. In Soon, he sees a future of electric and hydrogen based cars and interactive, 3d movies.
The action and suspense throughout the book are well done and the pages turn quickly and easily as Paul journeys from coast to coast physically and toward a decision about Christ internally. This is a grittier, and darker tale than any of the Left Behind books.
I felt that some of the actions taken by the anti-religion government teams were a bit over the top. They seemed too eager to use disproportionate force on the believer hide outs they find, and I didn't feel their motive was at well established at that point. It was almost like Jenkins was feeding into some slippery slope arguments. Also breaking the suspension of belief was the powers given to the head of the anti-religion team to basically call out an army. That seemed very broad and over the top.
The book ends with a couple of threads still loose, but that may have been intentional since its the first of a series. There is a bit of deus ex machina in the ending, but I'm not sure that's not out of place in a Christian fiction story.
This is the first book I've read as a writer, and it was fun to see plot points and how Jenkins worked his craft. Two things stuck out to me. first, Jenkins used a prologue. I know the rules are meant to the broken, but this is something I've been warned against in my own writing. The prologue introduces the reader to a couple of characters, but you don't meet them again until about a quarter of the way through the book and you aren't told specifically who they were but you can put two and two together. The other thing I noticed was the use of names in dialog. This seems to be one of those 'feel' things you only get with practice.
I know I have said some critical things so far, but over all, I really enjoyed the story, and many times my critics hat fell off as I got engrossed in the action.