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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Rapture

Liz Jensen

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To purchase The Rapture

Title: The Rapture
Author: Liz Jensen
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009
Length: 293 pages
Availability: The Rapture - US
The Rapture - UK
The Rapture - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : begins well, but too many parts of the premise are too far-fetched to be sustained

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 13/6/2009 Irvine Welsh
The Independent . 12/6/2009 Marianne Brace
Sunday Times B- 21/6/2009 Nick Rennison
The Telegraph A- 15/6/2009 Helen Brown

  From the Reviews:
  • "It takes a considerable degree of writing skill to draw personalities that we care about, and yet keep the storyline in satisfactory transit. Liz Jensen does an excellent job here, while mapping out a generally convincing and scary environmental disaster in the not-too-distant future. (...) The book is beautifully structured. All the elements (...) are introduced at exactly the right time. Would-be thriller writers should certainly pick up The Rapture; it's a masterclass on how to write an engaging thriller about a relevant contemporary issue while still respecting the reader's brain cells. If you enjoy the genre, you'll be gripped -- and even if it's not to your taste, the chances are you'll still find this book offers some fine rewards." - Irvine Welsh, The Guardian

  • "The Rapture makes chilling reading. (...) Jensen writes with energy and chutzpah about the scarily possible. (...) While some characters serve only to advance the action, Bethany and Gabrielle -- both disturbed and vulnerable in different ways -- are well drawn." - Marianne Brace, The Independent

  • "The Rapture is a long, elaborate journey of the imagination but it takes too many unnecessary diversions to be a fully satisfying one." - Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

  • "I suspect she had one eye on the multiplexes with The Rapture. There are scenes that call out for computer-generated imagery and a formulaic romantic twist that a writer of Jensenís calibre could have crimped more cleverly. But itís still a cracking good read." - Helen Brown, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Rapture centers on two damaged protagonists. The narrator is Gabrielle Fox, a psychotherapist in her mid-thirties who is adapting to her new life as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic and starting a new challenge by taking up a position at the: "Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Hospital, home to a hundred of the most dangerous children in the country" (not that she has too many career options at this point anyway). The patient who comes to play a major part in her life in the months that follow is Bethany Krall.
       Bethany stabbed her mother to death with a screwdriver. Her father is a well-known preacher, but he want nothing to do with his daughter any more. Bethany seems to have done a good job of driving her previous therapist over the edge -- or at least out of her job (and the therapist's notes on Bethany aren't made available to Gabrielle ...) -- but the one treatment that seems to be helping the girl out is electro-shock therapy. She positively lusts for it to be administered. And it seems to give her some fairly impressive mental and visionary powers .....
       Bethany is violent and unpredictable, and Gabrielle is right to be wary of her, but Bethany is also insightful and frighteningly forthright . And she really knows how to get to people. Gabrielle tries to be careful and keep a certain distance, but Bethany's abilities are ... inescapable. Especially her ability to predict things. Like major disasters -- earthquakes and hurricanes and the like. The novel is set a few years in the future, and global warming seems to have settled in nicely, so environmental conditions are even more unsettled than nowadays, but Bethany foresees things getting worse -- and fast.
       Jensen gets off to a roaring start, and both Gabrielle's attempts at settling in to her new, handicapped life and then her new job are very well handled. The interaction with Bethany is particularly well done, as Gabrielle is beautifully played by this preternatural girl. But things go downhill when a love interest is introduced for the woman who had figured she had to give up on men and sex.
       Too good to be true physicist Dr. Frazer Melville spices things up a bit too fast -- and the sex scenes don't help. Suddenly there's Gabrielle, thinking, in the third person: "if her lower section can't muster an orgasm, her nipples and brain most certainly can". And, worse, there's the good physicist, who soon enough: "comes with the raucous, unashamed cry of a caveman".
       Bethany's predictions keep coming true, and Frazer also becomes intrigued -- though he knows that if he shares this information with his colleagues it would be scientific suicide. But Bethany's warnings can't be ignored, and so they forge ahead. Between petty jealousy (Gabrielle thinks there's another woman ...) and the difficulty of being heard (much less taken seriously) in a scientific community that finds all this very implausible, things do not proceed well. When Bethany predicts what amounts to true global catastrophe -- perhaps as bad as what some Christians imagine will allow for the Rapture -- everything seems to spiral out of control.
       And then there's the repeated warning by Bethany's former therapist: "She's not just predicting things !" Much like Bethany's father, who believes that his daughter is essentially possessed by evil .....
       Or is she just: "some kind of New Age eco-psychic" ?
       The ultimate catastrophe threatening mankind is, at least, an intriguing one, involving a handy but dangerous substance:

You can power anything with it, and it's there in quantities you can't even imagine. It would solve the whole energy crisis. But it's highly volatile. Which means it may cost more than anyone's ever paid for anything. Ever.
       No kidding.
       So apocalypse comes -- or can it be headed off ? Jensen throws in everything from PR tricks ("the world's biggest-ever publicity stunt" -- in Greenland, of all places) to religious fervor, as well as too many too artificially elegant twists (hmmm, wonder why Gabrielle throws up all the time as the end nears ...), culminating in a rapturous finale.
       It is, ultimately, too headlong a rush into dystopia, and there is far too much stuffed into a novel of this length (and onto Gabrielle's shoulders). Too bad: Jensen starts off showing a very deft touch -- but it only lasts until the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
       Certainly readable, The Rapture can't quite live up to its many ambitions.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 September 2009

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The Rapture: Reviews: Liz Jensen: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Liz Jensen is a British author.

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© 2009 the complete review

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