Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Remnant: Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye, January 5—13, 2017
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Turbulent, unpredictable and unnervingly unreliable. That’s not the tribulation I’m talking about: it’s the Left Behind series itself.
Now on its tenth instalment, The Remnant is the most unsure of them all. It’s peppered with the best and the worst of the series, and also begins to move towards the endgame.
Let’s start with the good. Left Behind is, let’s not forget, a multi-book series dramatising the events of the Biblical Revelation narrative. The plot is no secret, so it must be character driven. It’s at its best, then, when the characters shine. The best examples of this in The Remnant – and for a while – are in Leah and, to a lesser extent, Hannah. Why? Because Leah is a mardy cow; she’s offendable and prickly. She creates tension and tension is what makes drama. Though not given a huge amount of page time, Leah brings some much-needed humanity to proceedings.
Left Behind has its problem in the utter anonymity of the rest of the cast. They’re just an interchangeable group of stock characters. One vague and dull bloke dies, two more pop up in his place. It’s impossible to invest in them. What’s worse is, they all agree. On everything. All the time. Dialogue is so often reduced to one character telling another the plan, that it’s about as exciting as the telephone directory. In earlier episodes, Rayford struggled to deal with leadership and there was some genuine friction. Now? They’re all up for every suggestion and that is dull, dull, dull.
Jenkins and LaHaye do address two of my pet bugs: where are all the other religious followers? And where are the atheist anti-Carpathians? Because surely no postmodern world would simply all fall at one man’s feet without question. In The Remnant, we meet a group of devout Muslims, and there’s also some folk that accept Carpathia is in charge but still reckon he’s a bugger. It matches his descent into downright dictator, but nevertheless it’s good to see a bit more work being put in.
There’s flashes and flavours of the early days, reminding us of the Left Behind and Tribulation Force glory days. The endgame is in sight and it’s good to begin to care again towards the end.
The closing chapters are particularly weak, though. It dips in and out, with months elapsing between each scene to give a helicopter view of several plagues. It’s dreadful. The Biblical account gives the few lines per plague you’d need for reference; where is the storytelling? How are the characters coping? How are their relationships developing as a result? What impact do the massive changes thrust on them have on them? None of this is addressed. There’s really no point to adapting the source material if nothing is added. It’s a rushed, lazy ending that should have been much better.
There’s two books left. Let’s hope Jenkins and LaHaye pull out the stops to bring out the best of the series for a strong finish, and not the worst to make the last ten years a waste.