This was a novel I read around 2011 in spurts while visiting my girlfriend who worked in a bookstore. It was in the "Christian novel" section and had the following plot:

Astronauts return from their trip to Mars and Houston is enveloped by a hurricane bright light, cutting off radio communications. When they finally exit their ship after landing, they're the only people around and walk around empty suburbs.

I'm fairly certain the captain/protagonist was a woman, and she routinely had flashbacks to falling into some sort of tunnel while on Mars.

Note, this definitely isn't The Return as seen in this answer: Novel about astronauts returning to depopulated Earth

  • Is the Rapture explanation the surprise ending? If so, is there any way to ask this question (and display its answer) without spoiling? Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:46
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    To be honest, I never finished the book, which I why I was wanting to look it up again. Given that it was in the Christian lit section I assumed it wasn't a twist, but once I read it, I can update the title accordingly Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 23:04
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    I saw a book in a bookstore once that had some astronauts finding a mysterious artifact on another planet, and it turned out to be Noah's Ark or something. The fact that it was in the Christian Lit section basically was a spoiler. Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 23:50
  • @ShawnV.Wilson I finished the book, turns out I made wrong assumptions about the biblical nature of the book, so I updated the question to reflect that. Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


Might this be Offworld (2009) by Robin Parrish? The blurb reads:

The return of NASA's first manned mission to Mars was supposed to be a momentous day. But when the crew loses touch with ground control before entry, things look bleak. Safe after a treacherous landing, the crew emerges to discover the unthinkable--every man, woman, child, and animal has vanished without a trace. Alone now on their home planet, the crew sets out to discover where everyone has gone--and how to get them back--only to discover they may not be as alone as they thought.

The Goodreads page has a number of reviews that give some more details:

  • There are 4 astronauts, including 1 woman
  • The crew encounter some kind of anomaly on their return to Earth
  • It is a "Christian Science Fiction" book

(Note: I found this using the search site:goodreads.com/book mars astronauts rapture where it appeared near the top of the first page.)

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    maybe the book explains more, but i find it kind of curious that every person on earth is worthy of being raptured, and apparently the only unforgiveable sin is the act of going to mars :)
    – Justin L.
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 20:36
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    @JustinL. Extraterrestrial travel was an unexpected bug in the system that the "gather up all the people" code didn't account for?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 20:38
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    ah, my point was that the rapture is typically supposed to distinguish the "saved" from the un-saved/sinful. in typical stories, only a fraction is saved and the rest are left behind to deal with their sins. but in this story apparently every person on earth is "saved", the only way to not be saved (and sinful enough to not be raptured) is by going to mars.
    – Justin L.
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:14
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    @Randal'Thor: Edge cases are the worst Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 21:28
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    @MichaelSeifert. You have a good point. This should have been filed under "Computer Science Fiction" Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 22:00

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