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THE MARK
[ The Best Rules the World | Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins | 2000 ]

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The Mark: The Best Rules the World - Click to view!Left Behind and its sequels will always have literary critics using terms like "shock fiction" or "middling propaganda" to describe the publishing phenomenon. As always, it's the fans that know best, and this series has kept the interest of millions, from journalists at amazon.com to pre-teen thrill seekers. Indeed, presenting the events of Revelation as if they happened in present-day surroundings has forced many thousands to seek a more eternal footing for their lives. The Mark is a formula book, but it's a good one.

Plot developments seen in this eighth serial have been a long time coming, as the GC's Global Community's dictatorship becomes literally demonized and the Trib. Force gets desperate. Revelation 21 is not far away, they realize, as the Antichrist requires the populace to have a microchip and number embedded on their forehead or right hand. Those who will not are beheaded, but, in the Biblical paradox of the ages, those who do will face an eternity of torment and seclusion. Thus, Buck, Rayford, Chloe, and Tsion are more determined than ever to get out the truth, at all costs. Undercover believer David Hassid plays a solid role in The Mark, planning his flight from New Babylon headquarters so as to avoid the Beast's mark. His exchanges with a know-it-all Christian boy, a dim-witted "Intelligence Director," and a compassionate nurse give some spice to the novel's dialogue.

Motherhood, martyrdom, and other struggles are wrestled with at length, as Chloe handles the believers' international network of trade, and Buck relays an imprisoned Greek pastor's final blessings to the man's wife, who willingly dies for her Lord. Left Behind's "stars" don't always intervene or rescue; since all characters are written with fully realized character traits, it's never obvious or easy when another player exits. The spiritual realm is not excluded either. Belief, doubt, and grace--themes that can never get old when presented right--are spotlighted through Hattie (the first book's infamous airline stewardess), and Albie (a middle easterner who grows into a vital part of the increasingly variable believers group). A salvation experience is "obligatory" in each novel, but certainly never old-hat.

Aside from the necessary evil of being similar to its predecessors, there is one damper to enjoying this novel. Having seen Left Behind: The Movie, the poor acting and amateur delivery comes back to haunt readers of a finely written bestseller. The film adaptation has cheapened the franchise, and it's certainly best to avoid it altogether. You're missing out, though, if you pass up on another explosive read by Jerry Jenkins (based on Tim LaHaye's theology), The Mark.

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