THE RAPTURE INTRODUCES a version of life in early-twenty-first-century Britain that is at once clearly recognizable and yet somewhat distorted, recalling the introduction of Atlantican society in The Paper Eater. The shift that has apparently taken place between the world familiar to the reader and that of Jensen's fiction is immediately evident from the evocation in the novel's opening sentence: “That summer, the summer all the rules began to change” (TR, 3). The opening in medias res onto a situation in which some unstoppable cataclysm has already taken place, the effects of which will be felt in the course of the novel, is a typical technique of Jensen's, and the opening sentence, with its suggestion of disruption and discontinuity with the past, clearly echoes Charlotte's reference in the prologue of My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time to “the laws of time [being] turned on their head” (ST, 3).
Britain in 2013 in The Rapture is on the very verge of a crisis that is apparently linked to climate change, with drought followed by “maverick weather” (4)—during which the winds wreak destruction, “flattening corn, uprooting trees, smashing hop silos and storage barns”—having become customary (4). The novel is set largely in Hadport, a fictional town on the Kent coast. A series of short info-dumps establishes the parameters of the disaster: “The latest projections predict the loss of the Arctic ice cap and a global temperature rise of up to six degrees within Bethany's lifetime” (23). It becomes clear that a battle against the elements is played out on a daily basis, with sunglasses and sunscreen among the absolute necessities carried at all times by the wheelchair-bound Gabrielle Fox. “The heat is abrasive, a hairdryer with no off-switch…. Everyone is wearing sunglasses. I can't think of the last time I saw anyone's eyes in daylight. Or the last time I bared mine” (35).
This is a world that is no longer evolving, no longer developing or growing, but rather is waiting for the end, a recurrent chronotope in Jensen's work. It is also a world that is rapidly running out of oil, and that has never recovered from the “global financial crisis” (10).