What happens when an author combines the mega-conspiracy theories of Thomas Horn, the spiritual warfare depictions of Frank Peretti, and the science fiction apocalyptic vision of Larry Niven? The result is The Cooper Chronicles, Daniel Holdings’ End of Days trilogy recounting the adventures of physicist and inter-dimensional globetrotter Dr. Bryce Cooper.
Apocalyptic literature is fascinating to say the least, but such works are not necessarily encouraging or fun. If done with the appropriate touch of realism – as, for instance, Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear war drama On the Beach – the work is depressing and scary. The subject, after all, is the complete eradication of human life on planet earth. On the other hand, a Terra-über-Alles yarn like Footfall (co-authored by Niven and Jerry Pournelle) makes the human cost merely the backdrop of an adventure story featuring mankind’s technological prowess and luck in overcoming an invasion by a fantastic foe from deep space. The loss of all of India, for example, registers little to a reader certain that somehow the story will have a happy ending.
The challenge of balancing realism with readability takes on an added dimension in spiritual subjects. A writer of Christian fiction must remain true to the Bible, or at least to his or her interpretation thereof. The result can be dismally flat, contrived, and divorced from real life – which is why it takes a special gift to write such a work. C.S. Lewis comes to mind as the pioneer and first master of modern Christian apocalyptic fiction, a genre which Peretti further develops. Yet when it comes to End Times novels which try to tell the tale of the Great Tribulation from a realistic viewpoint, no one has done quite so well as Daniel Holdings.
It helps that Holdings approaches his subject with the understanding that no one is exempt from the trials and devastations prophesied to come upon the earth according to the Bible. This gives him an advantage over Christian authors who write from the belief that there is a “pre-Tribulation rapture” which will remove Christians to some heavenly safe haven. To such authors, the real prize is not being on earth when bad things happen, which means their interest is not really in figuring out how the bad things are going to happen.
Consider the fragility of human existence. We survive within a specific set of environmental parameters – a fixed range of temperature, hydration, radiation, and atmospheric content. From a cosmic perspective the margin of error is very small; the slightest adjustment in even a single factor, such as the amount of oxygen, quickly moves the environment from pleasant to deadly. Yet we have learned how to venture into the realm of the deadly when necessary. Thanks to protective clothing, equipment, and protocols, our species can operate within the vacuum of space, in the ocean’s depths, in the radiation-charged atmosphere of a nuclear reactor, and in the hot zone of an infectious disease laboratory.
We venture into these deadly environments, but we do not live there. We cannot survive there without observing the strictest standards. Those who enter these realms understand this. Astronauts, deep sea explorers, nuclear engineers, and epidemiologists are professionals who have answered the call to highly specialized career fields. Not all who enter the paths of these professions advance to the point that they can operate confidently in the most dangerous places. The selection and training standards must be established at the highest possible levels for the simple reason that the slightest error can produce lethal results. Richard Preston explained this principle in The Hot Zone, an investigative look into the origins of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola. We learn from his book that the protocols for entering, working in, and leaving an infectious disease lab are elaborate and time-consuming, but necessary. No amount of caution is excessive when microscopic killers can infiltrate through the tiniest puncture of a protective suit or escape through an improper seal of an airlock. The viruses create the hot zone, whether it is in the lab or in the human body. Because of the radical transformative nature of these microorganisms, the highly trained professionals who work with viruses like Ebola in a very real sense act as mediators between them and the general population.
In fact, the role of these professionals is not unlike the role of the Levitical priests.