Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Soul Harvest: Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye, November 6—17, 2011
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
As Left Behind returns for its fourth outing in Soul Harvest, we find ourselves picking up from the Wrath of the Lamb, the worldwide earthquake that wipes out a large proportion of the earth’s population. There is a distinct change in focus and direction in the early part of the novel. Attention alternates between two unfolding stories: Buck’s search for Chloe in the USA and Rayford’s search for Amanda in the Middle East.
The change works well. It allows us to get to know both characters better as individuals and not just part of the Tribulation Force. In particular, Buck’s story drags on a bit before anything actually happens although to be fair, if we’d have skipped the detail of the aftermath, we would have felt cheated. (Speaking of the post-earthquake era, ten points for the tongue-in-cheek naming of the Global Community’s communications network, Cell-Sol.)
As the novel progresses, more layers of intrigue are added and it continues to improve. The other cast, such as Ken Ritz, Tsion and Mac, are also fleshed out more than they have been and for the first time in the series we care about the individual characters, their lives and what happens to them. They become more distinct, they speak and reason differently.
Rayford’s ongoing tenure at the Global Community is becoming a little unrealistic. It’s hard to imagine why Carpathia keeps him on, even with his supposed upper hand in knowing someone who knows something about where Ben-Judah and Durham may nor may not be. However, putting that aside, it’s well written and very entertaining. For me, Fortunato becomes one of the stars of this instalment as the slippery sycophantic right hand man of Carpathia. The scene in which he and Rayford clash over titles (reprised with the Pope who isn’t the Pope later on) is hilarious and easily the funniest sequence of the series so far. The politics, hand-changing and deal-making element is a brilliant aspect which I’ll be sorry to lose when the time inevitably comes.
The ending is strange. All of the storyline threads begin to reach their respective climaxes around the time of the first trumpet – hail, fire and blood – which would have been a dramatic and sensible end point. Instead, we fast forward several weeks. We have no aftermath and, indeed, the whole trumpet is dealt with in mere pages. It also fast forwards from the other storyline climaxes and undermines them a little. The purpose? To include a tiny piece of dialogue which sets up part five. If it were me, I would have ended the novel immediately before the fast forward, set up the next instalment with some clever narration and started Book 5 a few weeks later for a cleaner, more fluid transition.
Overall, while possibly not the strongest book to date on plot, it surpasses its three predecessors on character drama and, although it doesn’t have the same cliffhanger as Nicolae that leaves you desperate for the next one, the character empathy and slow burning plots (not least Molegate) leave the series in a strong position for Book 5 to build on.