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UFOs are not what you think 

Benton author has the real lowdown in a new novel.

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“A dense, black mass, the shape of its host’s body, emerged from Cooper. The girl’s eyes widened in terror when she saw the creature, its huge eyes like burning coals, its slitted mouth widening to expose a cavernous void with fang-like teeth guarding its opening.”

Not beings from outer space but beings from another dimension — fallen angels, in fact — are responsible for UFOs. And they’re up to no good. The creatures (one of them described above) can do almost anything, including walking through walls and taking on human form, except overcome the Fundamentalist Christians who oppose them. With God’s help, of course.

Such is the plot of “The Rapture Dialogues: Dark Dimension,” by Terry James of Benton. The novel is of a comparatively new genre sometimes called “Christian thriller,” the heroes of which can quote scripture as well as they can buckle swash. Elements of sci-fi and horror are mixed with the message that Jesus is coming soon, and a person would be well advised to get right.

Timothy LaHaye, a leader of the Religious Right, has written a series of novels similar in nature, with a co-author, Jerry B. Jenkins. The “Left Behind” series has sold a lot of books, sometimes making the best-seller lists, and presumably made a nice pile for its authors. LaHaye has written a blurb for James’ book: “With a solid background in Bible prophecy, my good friend and colleague author Terry James has penned a highly suspenseful and thought-provoking novel …”

Does James hope for the same kind of sales LaHaye has had? “Of course, I would like to duplicate his success,” he said in an interview, but that’s not the only reason for writing the book. “God calls people to do certain things — doctors, pastors, authors.” And his book is different from LaHaye’s work, James said. “He writes mostly about the Rapture. Mine is about what UFOs are all about. … I believe there are many dimensions — this physical world, and other worlds. I think Satan and his fallen minions are interdimensional.”

(The Rapture is a belief held by many that when Jesus returns, all of the born-again Christians, dead and alive, will rise up through the air to meet him. Some believers have bumper stickers on their cars: “In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned.”)

James said he’d known LaHaye for 10 or 12 years. Both are active in the field of Bible prophecy as writers and lecturers. How does one become an authority in that area? “Any student of the Bible can gain a degree of understanding of what prophecy is about,” James said. “Everything God wants us to know is in there. What he doesn’t want us to know, we’ll never know.”

James has written a number of books about prophecy. The way he looks at it, “The Rapture Dialogues” is only his second work of fiction. The first one got practically no distribution, for one reason or another. His current publisher, VMI Publishers of Sisters, Ore., has the connections to get the book into stores, he said.

The principal human villain in “The Rapture Dialogues” is a high-ranking government official, but unlike some conservative Christians, James does not believe that government is inherently evil. However, in every administration there’ll be people who want to control other people, he said. “The Anti-Christ will be the ultimate evil government official. He’ll be the first true ruler of Earth in the dictatorial sense.” We don’t yet know who the Anti-Christ will be, “but we know that he’ll come from the area of the old Roman Empire. … I don’t think it’ll be a pope.”

James will be 64 on Aug. 3. He is blind, having lost his sight to a retinal disease in 1993. Before that, he worked in public relations and advertising. Now, he writes pretty much full time, with the help of a software technology provided him by the state Services for the Blind, a government agency of which he speaks highly.

There’s quite a bit about flying in “The Rapture Dialogues” — flying airplanes, that is — leading one to speculate that James had been a pilot himself. Not so. “I was in the Air Force, but I was an enlisted man, not a pilot. I enlisted to stay out of the Army and avoid going to Vietnam, frankly. I did my job, mostly paper work.”

James is not the sort of person an interviewer has to drag words from. Any mention of the Bible and Bible prophecy and he’s off at a conversational gallop, throwing Bible verses over his shoulder. Those fallen angels, for example. They can mate with human women, either directly or by possessing the body of a man. They were doing so, contaminating the human genetic pool, when God sent the flood to put a stop to their carrying-on.

Read simply as a thriller, putting aside the theology of it, “The Rapture Dialogues” is not all that bad. James knows something about pacing a story, and keeping the reader turning pages. And it’s no more far-fetched than big-selling fantasy books on the market, or movies where Arnold Schwarzenegger fights the devil.

James would not agree that it’s far-fetched at all. “It’s not any stranger to me than the concept of evolution, where everything just happened out of nothingness. Everything we know as human beings has a beginning and an end. We create things.”

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