Piloting his 747, Rayford Steele is musing about his wife Irene's irritating religiosity and contemplating the charms of his "drop-dead gorgeous" flight attendant, Hattie. First Irene was into Amway, then Tupperware, and now it's the Rapture of the Saints--the scary last story in the Bible in which Christians are swept to heaven and unbelievers are left behind to endure the Antichrist's Tribulation. Steele believes he'll put the plane on autopilot and go visit Hattie. But Hattie's in a panic: some of the passengers have disappeared! The Rapture has happened, abruptly driverless cars are crashing all over, and the slick, sinister Romanian Nicolae Carpathia plans to use the UN to establish one world government and religion. Resembling "a young Robert Redford" and silver-tongued in nine languages, Carpathia is named People
's "Sexiest Man Alive." (This reviewer, a former People
writer, finds this plot twist plausible.) Meanwhile, Steele teams up with Buck Williams, a buck-the-system newshound, to form the Tribulation Force, an underground of left-behind penitents battling the Antichrist.
Ex-presidential candidate Pat Robertson briefly outsold Michael Crichton with his apocalypse novel The End of the Age (now available on audiocassette), and the similar The Third Millennium sells well, but the Left Behind series is the absolute champion in the race to make the Book of Revelation into racy thriller reading. --Tim Appelo