Remember Jerry Jenkins? Writer of the wildly popular Left Behind series? He's still writing, and he hasn't lost his touch. The Underground Zealot series consists of Soon: The Beginning of the End, Silenced: The Wrath of God Descends, and Shadowed: The Final Judgment. Published between 2004 and 2006, these novels are end-times thrillers in the tradition of Left Behind. However, the fact that there are only three books in the series makes it easier to follow the plot lines and the characters.
The story is set in a world where religion has been outlawed since the end of World War III, a religious war that occurred in 2009. Christians, not willing to deny their faith, have gone underground much like their first-century counterparts. They are dodging persecution by the world government set up after the war (similar to the persecution of early Christians by the Roman government).
Paul Stepola is an agent with the National Peace Organization, like today's CIA and FBI. His job is to find and arrest the followers of illegal religions, his specialty being Christians. As he studies about Christianity and attempts to infiltrate the underground groups, he has an experience paralleling that of the Apostle Paul. He loses his sight on a job-related sting, and, while in the hospital, he listens to Bible texts. With the help of an undercover Christian hospital volunteer, he makes the decision to become a Christian. From this point on, Paul is a double-agent, working in the agency that is charged with bringing Christians to "justice."
It's not practical for me to summarize the story from beginning of the first book through the last. Suffice it to say that the Christians rely on God to deliver them from their predicament, and God comes through for them.
You can get more hints on the storyline by reading samples and reviews on Amazon. I am not a fan of futuristic thrillers, but this story is interesting because of the parallels with the growth of first-century Chrisitianity. The believers in the post-WWIII world use the some of the same covert methods as the followers of Peter and Paul. Some say that fiction isn't instructional, but, since I finished this trilogy, I find myself wanting to go back and study the history of early Christianity to find more parallels.
And finally, the kicker for me----Jenkins has painted a picture of a cruel, selfish world, a world where Christianity is illegal. People grow up and live their whole lives without being exposed to Christian teaching. Could it really happen? Could religion be banned in the 21st century? Look around you. With Christmas on the horizon, cities and towns are afraid to put up Christmas displays because they're afraid of being sued. Christians are regularly chastised for expressing their beliefs.
I recommend that you read this trilogy if for no other reason than to see what the world is like when it's run by people who deny God. It's an exciting story with interesting characters, plenty of action, and suspense. Read the whole trilogy if you can. Ideally, you would read Soon first, but each subsequent volume has an introductory synopsis of the story in previous volumes.
The series is available as a set at Christianbook.com.
Disclaimer: I purchased the first book myself and obtained the others from my public library. I received no compensation for this review. I have reviewed Jenkins' Writing for the Soul on another blog.