An asteroid large enough to wipe out the planet is set to strike Earth six months from when our story begins (pages between the sections tell us the date as well as the asteroid’s progression toward Earth), which means that we’ve got an opportunity to explore human psychology when what slight constraints we might have on immediate gratification have been lifted. There’s also more than enough depression, nihilism and existential angst to go around as everyone—literally everyone—on the planet tries to figure out how—or whether—to hang on until the end.
In Detective Henry Palace, the narrator of Winters’ tale, we have a young man with an unerring sense of duty. An orphan raised, along with his younger sister, by grandparents, Henry is determined to be a good detective. When something doesn’t feel quite right about a suicide found in a McDonald’s restroom—and, in the final months before the asteroid hits, suicide is common—Henry can’t help but follow up.
This annoys nearly everyone—fellow cops, district attorney, witnesses, suspects—since they’re all going through their own grieving process over not only their own impending death, but the death of everything but the rock we’re living on. Henry runs across a handful of kindred spirits, people who are able to delay or displace their existential anxiety because they’re doing what they want to be doing, but for the most part, his obsession with finding out what really happened makes him a puzzle to those around him.
The mystery itself is interesting, with plenty of twists and engaging characters. However, the main thing that attracted me to this book was Winters’ skill in showing what happens to people under stress, particularly of the existential type. Everything we see in wartime, multiplied a thousandfold, shows up in little Concord, and Henry notes it. The result is that The Last Policeman succeeds both as a mystery, with a quirky detective and an intriguing whodunit, and as a piece of apocalyptic speculative fiction. That’s good news. The even better news is that this novel is supposed to be the first of a planned trilogy, with each case occurring closer to the moment when, as Henry repeatedly notes, “Bam!”
The Boise Weekly has a great story by Deanna Darr up, “Mind over apocalypse,” which asks why we’re so willing to believe the end of the world is at hand.
Steven Lawyer, a clinical psychologist who teaches a class on science and pseudoscience at Idaho State University, said that people are often just looking for a little certainty in an uncertain world.
"Some people have a real intolerance for uncertainty," he said. "When you have this uncertainty, it is unsettling to you. … People need to look for things that are going to lend them a sense of certainty that things are going to happen."
Left Behind fails as a novel for many, many reasons, but all of its other faults — the odious lack of empathy it holds up as a moral example, its blasphemous celebration of self-centeredness masquerading as Christianity, its perverse misogyny, its plodding pace, its wooden dialogue, it fetishistic obsession with telephones, its nonexistent characterization, its use and misuse of cliches, its irrelevant tangents, deplorable politics, confused theology, unintentional hilarities, hideous sentences, contempt for craft, factual mistakes, continuity errors … its squandering of every interesting premise and its overwhelming, relentless and mind-numbing dullness — all of these seem to be failures of the sort that one might encounter in any other Very, Very Bad book hastily foisted off onto the public without a second glance.**
Any one of those faults, on its own, would have been enough to earn Left Behind a place on the Worst Books of 1995 list. The presence of all of those faults — in a single book and in such concentrated form — is more than enough to secure its place on a list of the Worst Books of All Time.
Yet the book’s signature failure is something far simpler. Left Behind disproves the very thing it sets out to prove. It presents an inadvertent but irrefutable case for the unreality and impossibility of all of the events that Tim LaHaye claims are prophesied to occur at any moment.
Those events are not about to occur. They never will occur. They never can occur. Don’t believe me? Go read Left Behind and see for yourself.
That signature failure, Left Behind’s forceful refutation of itself, is what earns this book my vote as the Worst Book of All Time.
Fred Clark- in the final analysis on the final chapter of the first book in the Left Behind series (via ursinechase)
I’m always pleased to see others picking up on how well Slacktivist eviscerates the bad writing, the bad theology, and complete lack of humanity in LaHaye’s “masterpiece.”
When an author I admire recommends a book to me, I listen. So when Marc Acito told me that I had to read Anne Mendel’s debut, Etiquette for an Apocalypse, I jumped at it. Besides, I love a good, funny post-Apocalyptic murder mystery. What’s not to love?
The zombie apocalypse is brought about by Henry IV’s usurpation of the English throne—which upends the divine order of kings. Awesome use of zombies; awesome use of Shakespeare; awesome use of apocalypse.