There are few more arrogant statements out there than the one I've seen on a few bumper stickers: "In case of Rapture, this car will be empty." Even assuming you are an ardent Christian who believes in an upcoming End Time, it is the height of pride to assume that you know exactly what God is thinking when he passes judgment. And, as Robert Price argues in The Paperback Apocalypse, chances are if you believe that the Bible (in particular, Revelation) promises a soon-to-come end of the world, you're going to be disappointed.
The motivation for Price's book are the popular Left Behind books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, which Price demonstrates have more than a few problems from a Biblical interpretation standpoint. First, however, he provides a history of the Apocalypse and shows how Biblical chapters and verses have been misread (often intentionally) to promote the idea that the End is Coming. Hence, history is filled with people promising a Judgment Day at a certain time, only to have that day pass without even minimal fireworks.
Price deals with related concepts (such as the Second Coming) and shows the flaws in literal readings about them. He then discusses various apocalyptic novels: first, early ones which are generally more interested in preaching than storytelling, then later ones written by more adept authors. He also discusses mainstream novels such as Stephen King's The Stand that use apocalyptic ideas.
Finally, he gets to the where The Paperback Apocalypse is really leading: a dissection of the Left Behind books. Actually, it's more of a tearing apart. La Haye (the idea man for the books) is particularly criticized, and justifiably so. La Haye's version of Christianity is particularly hateful and not all that well reasoned; Price shows just how flawed (and vicious) La Haye's thought process really is. Jenkins (the writer) gets off relatively lightly, although he comes off as something of a sell-out for compromising his art to explain La Haye's vision. Price is not at his best when he speaks of Jenkins; on the one hand, he tries to portray Jenkins as a decent writer, but on the other, Price is constantly harping on bad plot devices and unbelievable characters.
Price describes himself as a former born-again Christian who seemingly grew out of that phase of his life yet still appears to be "reasonably" Christian. He admits an affection for these apocalyptic novels, but it comes off as the affection many people have for particularly bad movies. And though I have not read (nor have any desire to read) the Left Behind books, my brief looks at the books and the reviews I've picked up from others lead me to believe that they are the Plan 9 From Outer Space of apocalyptic novels.
Much as I agree with a lot of what Price says, he is really preaching to the choir. Few who enjoy the Left Behind (and similar) books and believe the themes they preach will pick up this book or accept the ideas inside. Indeed, La Haye and Jenkins seem to believe that critical thought is evil (so if they are appealing to "true" Christians, they are basically saying ignorance and blind faith are good...what a contemptible way to think of your audience!).
Price's writing is often interesting (and humorous) but also often ponderous (and not always logically consistent, such as his opinion of Jenkins), so under normal circumstances, I would only rate this three stars. On the other hand, I think his message is important enough that it is worth a bonus star. This is far from a perfect book, but it is an illuminating one.