Anybody who can make the apocalypse funny without being patronizing deserves attention. Stennett (The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher) brings a dramatist's sensibility (his professional background is theater) to this story of a "test market for the rapture": Goodland, Kan., home not of everyman but the Henderson family, whose members include fifth-grader Will. Lost in a cornfield, Will receives a vision of three signs of the rapture, a time when, according to Christian teaching, true believers will be lifted from the world before it dissolves in chaos and tribulation. That teaching was the basis for the gazillion-selling Left Behind apocalyptic novels. Stennett offers the apocalypse for the wry and non-literal-minded. Parables may be old-fashioned, but satire fits the times. Stennett's imaginative twist is not entirely successful; sometimes the narrative drags as it presents widely varying viewpoints. But the family at the heart of this satire is goofily believable, and examining the nature of belief-whatever its content-is not at all goofy. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The End Is Nowby Rob Stennett
Meet the Henderson family: Jeff, a struggling salesman who lives with a constant nagging fear that something will happen to his family; Will, who’s just trying to figure out life in the fifth grade; Emily whose greatest concern is that she won’t be nominated homecoming queen; and Amy, who is growing stir-crazy from being a housewife of eighteen
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Meet the Henderson family: Jeff, a struggling salesman who lives with a constant nagging fear that something will happen to his family; Will, who’s just trying to figure out life in the fifth grade; Emily whose greatest concern is that she won’t be nominated homecoming queen; and Amy, who is growing stir-crazy from being a housewife of eighteen years—and is convinced this was God’s plan B for her life. The Hendersons are longtime residents of Goodland, Kansas, a small Midwest town where nothing new or exciting ever happens … until now. Are the recent “weird” happenings and catastrophic weather mere coincidence, or more? The town spirals into chaos and confusion as its residents discover the end is no longer near—the end is now. Rob Stennett’s second novel is both a satire and a story of the apocalypse, a thriller and an exploration of family, community, belief, unbelief, and the two thousand-year-old Christian tradition of looking to the sky because the end is near.
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The End Is NowA Novel
By Rob Stennett
ZondervanCopyright © 2009 Rob Stennett
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE BEGINNING
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
There are certain rules to surviving a horror movie ... Never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, "I'll be right back." Because you won't be back. Jamie Kennedy, Scream
One week from tomorrow, at precisely 6:11 in the morning, the rapture or apocalypse or Armageddon or whatever else you'd prefer to call it, is going to occur.
But only in Goodland, Kansas.
The rapture will not take place anywhere else in the world. It will not crash the stock market, cause cars to wreck, or leave planes without their pilots. Husbands will not leave for the kitchen to grab a jar of pickles, only to come back to the living room and discover that their wives are now nothing more than pilesof clothes. Power plants will not shut down, leaving televisions, light bulbs, street lamps, and hairdryers without electricity. Running water will not stop, forcing citizens to take baths in rivers and wash their clothes in lakes. Meteors will not crash into the ocean and create tidal waves. Nuclear missiles will not be launched from the USSR, North Korea, East Germany, or any of those pesky countries in the Middle East. Barcodes will not be tattooed onto wrists or foreheads. The number 666 will be nowhere in sight except for those rare instances when a customer at McDonald's buys nothing but a Filet O' Fish and a medium strawberry shake, and the total including tax comes out to be six dollars and sixty-six cents. A world government will not be formed. Computers will not melt down because they are confused about what the year 2000 actually means. Aliens will not blow up the White House.
Nothing like this will happen.
That is, nothing like this will happen anywhere but in Goodland.
This goes against conventional wisdom. Most people think that when the end comes it will be widespread: Trumpets will sound and horsemen will appear and it will be a whirlwind of all kinds of tribulation-from pre-trib, to post-trib, to middle-trib. But that doesn't make sense. It's just not how such things work. It's not true to the pattern of how other miraculous destruction has occurred in history.
There are always warning signs.
God didn't simply destroy Nineveh-Jonah was swallowed by a whale and then sent to warn Nineveh of its impending doom. Moses warned Pharaoh before the plagues hit-and even the plagues started out innocently enough, simple stuff like frogs and locusts before the heavy hitters like blood rivers and death angels. Peter warned Ananias and Sapphira, Lot warned Sodom and Gomorrah-and in the end they were all destroyed to warn others about the dangers of wickedness.
This is what will happen in Goodland. Their rapture will be a signal to the world. They are a warning. A sacrificial lamb. It makes sense. Once everyone sees how powerful the rapture is, they will be afraid, or excited; they will hit the floor and repent of their sins. Everyone, everywhere, will know the truth. Not only that, but this event will provide God a chance to see how things go. He can look at the rapture and see what worked and what didn't. He can watch the good, the bad, and the ugly of the apocalypse so He can know how to improve it when He takes it global.
Goodland is the test market for the rapture.
The ultimate warning sign for all to repent.
Will was running late. At this rate he'd never make it home in time for dinner. And this wasn't just dinner. This was Monday night dinner. This was the most important meal of the week for the Henderson family. The meal for which his mom spent the whole day cooking things like roast, garlic potatoes, fresh baked rolls, and pistachio fruit salad.
Will knew he should have left Nate Jackson's house sooner. But Nate had just returned from a family trip to Kansas City where he got the most impressive set of brand-new, mint-condition DC graphic novels Will had ever seen. "Look how cherry these are," Nate said as he opened the cellophane packaging and slowly took out the comics. Nate was right. These were cherry. Batman and Superman looked lifelike on these pages. No, they looked better than lifelike. Every detail on every page was breathtaking. Otherworldly. How could someone be expected to keep track of time when looking at comics like this?
"Can I read it?" Will asked.
"Yeah, just be real careful. Mom said I'm not even supposed to open these because they're so nice."
Will sat on the edge of Nate's bed and flipped the comic books open. He turned to one page after another, reading about the adventures of the superheroes. Will's mind always got lost in these stories, and at that moment he was lost in thought about Batman. Will felt bad for Batman. The Flash could move at the speed of light, Wonder Woman had an invisible jet, and Superman had a ridiculously unfair amount of powers (flight, laser vision, X-ray vision, wind breath, super strength-and those were just his basic powers-it seemed like he could just come up with a brand-new power whenever he needed it). And then there was Batman. He had exactly zero superpowers. He was rich. He had a lot of money. His trust fund was his power. He could buy really cool cars and planes and bat gadgets that could do anything and everything. But Batman couldn't do anything for himself. Will thought all the other superheroes probably looked at Batman like he was a poser. Batman was the rich kid who had to buy his way into the Super Friends club. That must have made Batman really sad. Will thought Batman probably lay in bed late at night and tried not to cry at the mean things the other superheroes said. Batman probably would even look towards the heavens and pray, "Please God, give me some kind of superpower. It doesn't have to be much. Just the ability to jump over a building or become invisible or shoot beams of ice or fire out of my hands."
Will was almost in a trance flipping through the pages thinking about Batman when Nate said, "Dude, don't you have to be home? It's almost dark."
Will looked up at the clock. "Shoot. I gotta go." He jumped off Nate's bed, ran down the stairs, and opened the door to leave. "See you later Mrs. Jackson," Will said.
"If the Lord tarries," Mrs. Jackson called from the kitchen.
Once Will was out of Nate's house he started walking home down the gravel road. The road was on the outskirts of Goodland and on either side were large cornstalks as tall as NBA players. Will walked as quickly as he could. But even at his quick pace he wouldn't make it home in time. His family lived so far away from everybody.
Still, he needed to make it home in time. This was Monday night dinner. This was a huge deal. So, the only chance he had to make it home before he was grounded for the next month was to cut across the cornfields.
Will stepped into the fields and knew that if he walked in a straight diagonal line, he would cut at least twenty minutes off his walk home. He'd just have to keep walking quickly and he'd be there in no time. He'd be there before his mom could call Nate Jackson's mom and ask where he was. Will didn't like when his mom talked to Nate's mom. They always talked about religious things.
Of course most people talked about religious things in Goodland. Will had visited some of his cousins in Denver last summer and noticed that no one around there ever said things like, "If the Lord tarries," when they said goodbye. But in Goodland that was just how most people said goodbye. Kind of like saying "Geshundheit" after someone sneezes. But the thing is, most people say "Geshundheit" after you sneeze. It seemed to Will that no one said "If the Lord tarries" anywhere else in the world. He wanted to make sure so he tested the theory out a month ago when his family visited Worlds of Fun amusement park in St. Louis. The teenager buckling Will into the roller coaster told him, "Have a good ride." And Will answered, "If the Lord tarries."
The teenager looked at Will as if he were from Neptune.
On their road trip home from the amusement park, Will asked his mom, "How come nobody else talks like we do?"
"What do you mean?" his mother answered.
"Nobody in Denver or at Worlds of Fun says things like, 'If the Lord tarries.' Only people in Goodland say things like that."
"That's because they're not concerned with the rapture," his mother said.
"You know what the rapture is, don't you?"
Of course he knew what the rapture was. Everybody knew what the rapture was. He'd heard about it lots of times in Sunday school. People around town talked about it every once in a while. And from the way people talked, Will always worried that it was coming soon. That made Will scared. He didn't want to die.
Not that it was really dying. Or was it? He'd have to go away. His life on earth would be over. Isn't that essentially what dying is? Does it matter if you skip the pain? Or is the pain part of dying? Do you have to experience something bad like a bullet through your chest or a car wreck or liver cancer or AIDS or burning or drowning? Is that part of dying? Probably it was. So that was one of the things that Will liked about the rapture. He'd get to skip the pain part of dying. It was like God would hit fast forward or skip to the next chapter, and he'd be whisked away to some magical place with clouds and harps and singing. He'd be whisked away to heaven.
So it wasn't really heaven that bothered him-it was just that there was so much here that he hadn't experienced. He hadn't graduated and thrown his cap high into the air. He'd never learned to drive or been able to pick up a girl by himself on prom night. He wouldn't be able to go on a camping trip with just his friends like they'd always planned they would when they were old enough. He hadn't ever owned his own house, or had a job where he made lots of money that he could spend on video games and guitars and flat screen TVs.
Worst of all, he'd never even had a girlfriend, he'd never kissed a girl like all the other guys at school said they had. And he'd certainly never had the S-word with a girl. And he sort of wanted to do that too. Not until he was older. Not until his wedding night, and maybe not until a while after that. The S-word sounded crazy and weird and like a lot of fun, but also kind of scary and intimidating for Will right now.
But it wouldn't always be scary. Someday he would be ready.
Still, he didn't think about the S-word much, but he thought about his wife all the time. He wondered what she would look like. She'd probably have blonde hair and she'd like to play soccer or volleyball. Will even wondered if he knew his wife right now. Sometimes, during math when the teacher was writing long division problems on the board, he'd look around the classroom and wonder if his wife was sitting in class with him. Was she a few desks away and just as bored as he was? What if someday, once they were married, they'd talk about math class and tell each other, "That's where I first noticed you, in math, during those super boring lessons. That's when I knew we'd be married." But that day would never come. He'd never get to have that conversation with his wife. He'd never even get to know who his wife really was.
He'd probably be raptured before then.
And that wasn't fair. This was a point Will often brought up in his prayer time. "God, why can't you wait until I'm old, like twenty-five, until you bring the rapture? Let me do some of the stuff that people have gotten to do for thousands and millions of years before me. Isn't that fair?" And then Will felt like God spoke the answer to him: No, that wasn't fair. The rapture had to come someday; it couldn't wait until everyone turned twenty-five. Because then it would never happen. And besides, there were some people who were babies or little kids and they'd never get to experience all the good stuff Will had. They'd never get to ride a bike, or white-water raft, or go see the Kansas City Royals play live and in person. He should consider himself lucky he'd gotten to do all of that. Even more, he would be very lucky that the rapture was going to happen in his lifetime. He was special.
And then he stopped.
He looked around. He was so deep in thought about the rapture and Worlds of Fun and his future wife that he'd lost his place in the cornfields.
Where are you? There was barely any sunlight left. He wasn't even supposed to be in the cornfields. If his parents knew that he'd cut across the cornfields, he couldn't imagine how grounded he would be, but it would be bad. He would probably still be grounded after the rapture. The adults didn't want anyone in the Johnsons' fields because they stretched on as far as the eye could see, in every direction, rows and rows of endless cornstalks like trees in a forest. Will could navigate them; he'd done it before, but he had to pay careful attention to the subtle changes and markers along the way. And he thought he was paying attention. But all the thoughts of the rapture crept in and distracted him. It happened to him sometimes. Emily made fun of him because of it. His mom said it wasn't his fault. One thought could jump onto another and another. But she also said just because it wasn't his fault didn't mean he wouldn't have to fight against it. She said he needed to pay attention, and that wasn't easy; that's why they called it paying.
He was paying attention now.
He knew exactly what to do to get out of the fields; he hadn't been so lost in his thoughts that he'd completely lost his bearings. He needed to walk straight about three hundred steps, and then right five hundred steps, and then left six hundred steps. Like that, he'd be out of the cornfields. He could run home, he'd be there before dark-he'd outrace the sun if he had to. Then he could go back to normal things like worrying about the rapture.
He started counting each step. He knew right where he was the whole time, and once he got near his last few steps he could feel the outside world, taste the fresh air, and imagine what it would look like outside of the green and yellow and brown blur he'd been staring at for the last half hour. And as he walked out of the cornfields something odd happened.
There was more corn.
The six hundredth step looked just like every other step. He hadn't left the fields at all. He closed his eyes and listened. Surely he could hear people playing and talking; there would be cars driving on the road, and these sounds would guide him out of the field. He had miscalculated. But he was close. He just needed a little help to guide him the rest of the way.
Now he was going to have to do something that would give him away. He'd have to yell. And then everyone for sure would know that he was in the cornfields. They would tell him, "I told you so. This is exactly why we say, 'Don't play in the cornfields.'" He would tell them he wasn't playing, he knew exactly where he was. He just got a little distracted. But those logical explanations would fall on deaf ears.
That was a price he was willing to pay. "Is anybody out there?" Will said, loudly and confidently without quite yelling it. There was still a shred of hope that someone would be nearby, someone who'd guide him out of the fields so he could avoid trouble.
"Anybody?" He half-yelled again.
No answer. He started worrying much less about being grounded and much more about dying of thirst in the cornfield. He knew that you died of thirst way before you died of hunger, which seemed weird to Will because he usually felt hungry a lot more than thirsty.
So this time he yelled, "Please, I'm lost. I need some help. PLEASE!"
Silence. Someone could hear him. They were just trying to prove a point. They were trying to teach him a lesson.
Excerpted from The End Is Now by Rob Stennett Copyright © 2009 by Rob Stennett. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are saying about this
The End Is Now is a compelling story of love, faith, anxiety, humor, uncertainty, fear, community, family, and redemption. Rob Stennett tells a gripping tale that leaves no one behind. -- Kevin Beck
Rob Stennett turns another interesting premise into an even more interesting story. A prophetic child, the promise of rapture, and the ensuing drama that unfolds tells a cautionary tale of what happens when, in hopes of a possible someday happening, we ignore the realities and possibilities of the present. A page turner most definitely! -- Lisa Samson
Meet the Author
Rob Stennett is the author of two novels: The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher and The End Is Now. He’s the creative director at New Life Church and an accomplished film and theater director. He lives in Colorado.
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Stennett, a rising author gaining quick popularity in the Christian subculture because of his tongue and cheek approach to subjects that are often treated with both pious reserve and outright disdain has given the rapture a humorous twist. Here, God is seen as somewhat of a businessman, seeking to create a test market for the rapture. Goodland, in many ways has a similar local make-up of what one would expect in a Coen Brothers film, and although it's not quite as dark as Fargo, it still retains the same situational humor brought out by the interconnection of Midwest American culture. Stennett's almost satirical approach to the apocalypse, and how it affects people from all sorts of theological and philosophical perspectives is in many ways more effective as a catalyst toward enabling people to reflect on their own views and incorporate a larger perspective on the matter than straightforward dogmatic texts can be. In many ways, the text shows the absurdity, not of the rapture itself, but of people's responses to it. At the same time, there are many references that will only be humorous to people within the subculture, as much of the satire is contextual. For those who are not Christians, it can be an interesting book in that it will show many of the intricacies of a complex and dysfunctional group of people that make up about 25% of America. Also, although this is an adult book, Stennett switches from person to person as the main character of each chapter. Will takes the forefront a lot, which can potentially put this text in a hybrid between adult and young adult literature. -Lindsey Miller, lindseyslibrary.com.
No text was provided for this review.
I got The End is Now as a free download, so I think the least I owe the author is a review. Long story short, I loved it. It is reminiscent of some of Stephen King's best works, or maybe Frank Peretti's Visitation, which start with an average town, find a way to isolate it, and then have something incredible happen. The results not only define the book's characters, but also speak to the human condition. This book will especially resonate with people who grew up in church; though I think anyone will enjoy it. It is witty, insightful-sometimes irreverent-but also just plain awesome. It is a character driven work (as the chapter titles clearly reinforce) which could've been boring or slow. However, I didn't find that to be the case at all. The extensive backstory is interesting and spot on in so many places. It reads fast. And the ending is perfect! The End is Now is well worth buying.
That is a frighting preponderance and one I hope that I never have to answer. I was fascinated by this book, the reactions that people had on different levels and what happened to the family. I had a difficult time believing that so many people were able to suspend their belief in the everyday and follow the little boy who brought this on. I for one, even being a Christian, would have been very cautious of false prophets. That was my only problem with the book. I think that this book is VERY good for group discussion. I would like to actually do this at my church.....
The feel of this story is best summed up by the author's tongue-in-cheek epilogue, wherein he thanks the future cast of the movie that would be made from the book. This suits the story, one surrounding a family struggling with everyday turmoil, that builds to an epic climax (albeit a small-town epic) with close friends turned enemies and reasonable folk becoming cruel, blood-thirsty mobs. Perhaps most powerful (and what prevents clichés from taking over) is the way the characters are developed: with believable, even relatable, internal conversations of self-doubt and monumental pride and confidence in questionable goals. I especially liked the jump-cut like "scenes" that keep you deeply engaged to the story and individuals, rather than long monologues or third-person commentary that would have threatened to become preachy. I could see certain non-crucial details that the story relies on for comedic relief being lost on some readers who may not have a Christian background, though I think they could share that very trait with the father featured prominently in the storyline. I have intentionally avoided the rapture/apocalypse/Bible code literature that has become popular with religious types in the last several years, as their premises are weak and what I tried to read revealed one-dimensional characters with uninspired storytelling. Though it may share the topic, this book stands apart. And it even dares to tell a story that CONCLUDES at the end!
"Goodland, Kansas, is the test market for the rapture. The ultimate warning sign for all to repent," That's what the locals feel they are anyway. "..Once everyone sees how powerful the rapture is, they will hit the floor and repent of their sins. Everyone, everywhere, will know the truth. Not only that, but this event will provide God a chance to see what worked and what didn't. He can watch the good, the bad, and the ugly of the apocalypse so He can know how to improve it when He takes it global." I don't know about you but this is funny stuff!! Rob Stennett takes a serious subject many talk about all over the world and puts a "what if" scenario to it. He reminds me of a comedian Steven Wright who said, "I received a post card from my friend. It was a picture of the whole world. My friend wrote, "Wish you were here!". Steven says, "I thought I was!" This book also reminds me of Eli, a story written by Bill Myers, that entertains the scenario of, 'what if Jesus were to be born for the first time in our generation.' Sad to say the same things would happen to Jesus, maybe just happen a little sooner in this generation because of instant communication. Rob got me thinking about some questions he brought up in, The End is Now. How would we know the end was here? What would it look like? Why has Goodland, Kansas felt that they were the test market for the rapture? This author says stuff out loud-and in print, that we would never dare verbalize to our friends (or anyone else for that matter). As you read and start smiling then laughing, you'll be caught off guard by some definite things to ponder- things you hadn't thought of before about the end. For example, "God didn't need the test market for the rapture. After all, He is God. He already knows everything. He was, is, and forever will be omnipotent.. Maybe the testing was more for all of us. This is the age of skepticism. This is the age where the answers to any of life's questions are just a Google search away. So, perhaps humankind will need a sneak preview of what the rapture looks like so they can know how to respond." And ready their hearts (I added the last comment). I can now see why God will NOT tell us exactly when the END will happen - we just could not take it. It is way more information than the human race can handle. Thanks Rob, for taking me away into a scenario I haven't thought much about--until now. It just goes to show me that my Father in Heaven loves me so much, wants the best for me; which means He's keeping his mouth shut about the exact moment the END will happen. Rob, I appreciate you making me laugh, look at life, relationships and what's really important. We're here to do more than sleep walk through life. Each chapter in this book is from a different characters point of view on their take as to what is really happening in Goodland Kansas. It's a hoot!! You just have to read this book. So, grab a copy and read about The End! It just might give you the nudge you need to really start living your life. You won't be sorry you did. Book Club Servant Leader www.psalm516.blogspot.com