Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Divine Revelation of Hell

Back when I reviewed Bible Man, I wrote that sometimes in my line of work I come across something so bizarre and out-there that it must be seen to be believed. Into that ever-expanding category I bring you A Divine Revelation Of Hell by Mark K. Baxter.

First, let me point out that this book is supposedly nonfiction. That is, the content that Mary presents us with isn't meant to be read as fiction. Mary K. would have us believe that every word of her story is TRUE. We clear on that? Good.

A Divine Revelation of Hell tells the tale of Mary's encounters with Jesus Christ, and their repeated journeys down into Hell. Apparently, the Lord and Saviour chose her, out of the six billion of us on the planet, to accompany HIM on a guided tour of Hell for the purpose of writing a book about it. That book, the LORD thinks, will better convince people of Hell's reality, and therefore convince them to embrace Christianity.

And we, the readers, are expected to swallow that. Riiiiight.

Simply put, I do not. I'll get into why later, except to say that if Jesus really did choose her, why did he pick someone with such poor writing ability? It's not that she isn't imaginative or descriptive... okay, it kind of is. But the main problem is that, well... you kind of have to read a bit to see what I'm getting at:

"I was so thankful when we entered the tunnel. I thought, The tunnel cannot possibly be as bad as the pits. But how wrong I was! As soon as we were inside, I began to see great snakes, large rats, and many evil spirits, all running from the presence of the Lord. The snakes hissed at us, and the rats squealed. There were many evil sounds. Vipers and dark shadows were all about us. Jesus was the only light to be seen in the tunnel. I stayed as close to Him as I could. Imps and devils were all over the sides of this cavern, and they were all going somewhere up and out of the tunnel. I found out later that these evil spirits were going out onto the earth to do Satan's bidding."

Or how about:

"These are the words that Jesus spoke to me. He instructed me to write them and put them into a book and to tell them to the world. These words are true. These revelations were given to me by the Lord Jesus Christ so that all may know and understand the workings of Satan and the evil schemes he is planning for the future."


The story is simple enough. Jesus takes Mary from her home to Hell by way of a vortex, several of which hover tornado-like over the earth to catch damned souls. Hell turns out to be in the shape of a human body, complete with arms, legs, jaws and heart. Oh, and Outer Darkness, too. A chapter is devoted to each section, with a few more (like The Horrors of Hell) thrown in for good measure. Each section contains its own unique features and torments for the damned; Jesus gives the grand tour, explaining the different punishments in each area.

For example, in Hell's left leg "there were pits of fire everywhere as far as the eye could see." Jesus shows a few of these to Mary, who says "I don't know if I can go on, for this is awful beyond belief." Damned souls trapped in skeletons are burned in the pits, and when they see Jesus they beg to be released. Some of them speak most eloquently about the sins they have committed, all the chances they had to repent but didn't, how they thought they had so much time, then one day the unexpected happened and now they're in a pit burning alive. You'd think they'd be in too much agony to do anything but scream. Whatever their story, Jesus' answer is always the same: "The Judgment is set." Even Mary tries to plead with Jesus, but nothing will sway HIM.

I won't go into the other areas in any great detail - it's just more of the same. It's interesting to note, however, that Jesus abandons Mary in Hell to fend for herself. Twice. "You could never know for sure (that Hell is real) until you had experienced it for yourself," Jesus says after rescuing her from his abandonment the first time. During that abandonment, "the most excruciating pain I could imagine swept over me." She was taken before Satan, who had his demons throw her "into something cold and clammy" where "the fire burned my body, and the worms crawled over and through me." She goes through all that, and Jesus ditches her again nine chapters later! The bastard.

Also of note is the chapter on Outer Darkness, because the concept is so silly. There's a bit in the Bible about certain sinners being cast into outer darkness, and that's exactly what happens; they are loaded into a big disk, and then a 30-foot tall angel picks up that disk and chucks it into a realm called (spoiler alert) Outer Darkness. "My Word means just what it says," Jesus tells Mary.

Personally, I'd much rather ride the disk than get stuck in a burning pit.

At some point in 'writing' this, Mary K realized she'd need some filler. There's a chapter on Heaven, and a lot of space is given to Bible prophecy about the End Times. Mary is shown visions of a dire future, where the Beast has "a 'big brother' machine that could see into homes and businesses." She also sees a scene where the Beast takes an "angry man into a larger room" and lies him down under "a vast machine." What was the vast machine for? "On the top of the machine were the words, 'this mind eraser belongs to the beast, 666." I'm serious! That's what it says. You always want to have your mind erasers labeled, I guess. Wouldn't want to mix it up with the expresso machine.

But that's not the only example of Mary K's really bad writing (though it is one of the best!). She has an annoying habit of repeating things, or of interrupting the narrative to speak directly to the reader about the need to convert to Christianity. Jesus constantly reminds her that he has chosen her to write this book about Hell so that people will know it is real. Does HE really think she's going to forget? Or did Mary figure that reminding the reader of it constantly would make them more likely to believe it?

I'm not even convinced Mary K. Baxter wrote this; the book is copyrighted to a T.L. Lowery. Curiouser and curiouser. T.L. would go on to be a credited co-author on several of Mary's other Divine Revelation books (yes, it's a series), but is name is conspicuously absent on this volume.

Other oddities include the two pages of reviews for this book at the front. Nine people praise the book, which means Mary found at least nine people who thought this was the real deal! Or maybe they were well paid. It's interesting that none of the nine appear to be literary critics.

One of those 'critics' states: "Mary's descriptions of hell are so real that readers will feel that they are right there with her..." Uh huh. Sure, there's a lot of imagination on display, but her descriptions are lacking. Every place is dark, has a foul odour, is full of horrors and terror. She rarely goes beyond that, so this reader never got a sense of the place. The demons get a little more attention, but that only serves to spotlight the book's frail reality. Any lazy writer can stick a jumble of animal parts together and call it a demon. One can't help but think that Mary made them up.

And Satan? He escapes all description altogether. Not one word is used to give the reader a sense of the Devil's form. For that matter, Jesus doesn't get much of a write-up, either. "I cannot find words to express His divine presence," Mary says, "but I know that I know it was the Lord." What?!?

So, divine warning or poorly-written cash grab? If you really need to ponder that one, I feel sorry for you. Still, I could be wrong. Perhaps when I die, I'll say the words that Mary K. Baxter spoke when Jesus left her in Hell for the second time: "Oh, no! I am in hell forever! Oh, no!"

But I doubt it.

Note: There is a special section of Hell for "men loving men, and women loving women, who would not repent and be saved from their sin." It involves blood, fire and chains. That's why it scores points for Disturbing or Offensive Content.

Likely to Convert - 0
Cover Art - 1
Ability to Hold Interest - 4
Unintentional Hilarity - 8
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 3

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Indwelling: Left Behind Book 7 (Audiobook)

My review of Desecration went way longer than I should have gone, so I'll try to make this one shorter. This is the first time I've reviewed an audiobook for this blog, which makes this post somewhat special I suppose. It's an abridged audiobook, running at about 180 minutes, so that should help me chop the reviewing length down.

As with the other books in this series, the authors are Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The audio version was read by an actor named Frank Muller, who does a creditable job at reading the text and doing different voices for all the various characters.

The story picks up right where Book 6 - Assassins - left off, with the murder of the AntiChrist Nicolae Carpathia during a public appearance. Rayford Steele, who had intended to do the deed, changed his mind at the last second only to have his gun go off accidentally. Everyone assumed he'd done it, but it was in fact Chaim Rosenweitz who performed the killing blow. It seems Chaim pretended to have a stroke in the last book in order to convince Nicolae that he was harmless. His plan worked, Nicolae died, and Chaim escaped thanks to the intervention of the plucky Buck Williams.

Rayford makes his own escape, and is told he is a sinner for trying to do things his way. Rayford should have trusted that God would take care of the assassination! But he didn't, because he has so much pride. Ray prays for forgiveness, and he and Jesus are best buds once again.

Chaim also gets Saved, finally giving in to the constant preaching of Buck over the last several books. Nevertheless his conversion seems a bit sudden - the scene where he is convinced of the Wrongness of his ways and of his Desperate Need for Jesus must have been cut to make the 180 minute running time.

Meanwhile, False Prophet Leon Fortunando sets up a huge funeral for his dead boss, and hires a gay stereotype named Guy Blod to design and build a huge gold statue of Nicolae Carpathia. Leon also has super burning powers, and can call down fire from above (from where above is never spelled out) to destroy Nicolae's enemies. He uses this super power very publicly to dispose of three world leaders who weren't loyal enough to Carpathia. Cool super power, but why couldn't the AntiChrist himself have that power? I pointed out in my last review that Nicolae has to borrow a gun every time he wants to shoot someone.

Of course, Nicolae does have one awesome super power: the ability to come back from the dead. At the funeral, Nicolae returns to life in front of a crowd of thousands and on national television, proving just how awesome he really is and fulfilling the Biblical prophecy predicting his return. And, according to the Bible, the AntiChrist returns to life with Satan in possession of him. Indwelling in his body, as it were. Hence the title. Now that Satan is in command, Nicolae pretty much goes on acting like his old self. In fact, the only way we actually know that Satan is in the guy is because the Trib guys keep telling us so.

Speaking of the Tribulation Force, they have problems of their own. Their super-secure safehouse has been compromised, but they all manage to escape without a single one of them getting captured. The Tribs always seem to escape the AntiChrist's minions with an overabundance of ease. Maybe it's because they have God on their side? Even so, it's a weakness that this book, and indeed the rest of the series, suffers from tremendously.

As bad as I'm making it sound, The Indwelling was still a relatively amusing book. I listened to it on my old Sony Walkman (yes, I still have one[yes, this audiobook copy I found is on cassette]) at night before bed, and I wasn't bored. I wasn't all that fascinated, either; as good a voice as Frank Muller has, he could not convince me to keep listening once I got tired. I'd have to say that Indwelling is pretty much a lesser entry in the series. Nothing much seems to happen - and this is the book where the AntiChrist returns from the dead possessed by Satan! The entire book feels like filler. Fun filler at times, but filler none the less.

There, that was a little shorter, wasn't it? Of course, I didn't go into as much depth as I usually go, so this is kind of an abridged review, too.

Likely to Convert - 0
Cover Art - 4
Reader's Voice - 6
Ability to Hold Interest - 5
Unintentional Hilarity - 3
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 5