Monday, May 09, 2011

Science fiction:Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

It's not hard for me to suspend my belief for a good read, especially if the genre is science fiction. And Will McIntosh's basic premise of the future breakup of society as we know it due to a meltdown of the world's economies intrigued me. Unfortunately, the details provided in McIntosh's novel were very fuzzy. In the beginning, we know that about 40% of all Americans are unemployed, and therefore there are large numbers of homeless people drifting around like gypsies, trading with each other the best they can before being run off by cops or violent locals. There is no help for anyone.

The story is told by Jasper, a young college graduate who is traveling with his "tribe," Cortez, Jeanne, Colin, and Ange. We don't know how long they've been wandering around Savannah, Georgia. At this stage, Jasper is very preoccupied with an affair he's having with a married woman--by phone. He's homeless, he doesn't have much to eat, but somehow, he's got a cell phone. And this Sophia, who is calling and meeting him around town in her car for brief visits, has a home, job, and a spouse who she is not going to leave. How and where could they have possibly met? No clue. It's a strange subplot without much purpose, other than to showcase their different lots in life. This could have been done in a more realistic way.

This strange relationship and the miraculous cell phone are early clues about how really silly this book was going to be. Jasper continues to think and do rather immature things, except when he's doing the impossible. There are some very violent and gross episodes in this story, which Jasper always somehow survives. There is even an episode when he performs an appendectomy on a teenaged girl. No, Jasper's not a doctor, but since he has his trusty cell phone, he calls a doctor who walks him through the process! We (the reader) never find out how that worked out for her, but the offending organ was indeed removed. Jasper had joined her tribe to pick some herbs and have sex with her, but after this episode, he hurried right on home.

Another subplot is referred to as the Daja Jihad, which was never really defined. There's Sebastian, who has some kind of infection in his blood called Doctor Happy, which takes all the fight out of people and makes them serene and--happy. He's out to infect as many people as possible. This reminded me of A Clockwork Orange. We don't find out until the end what Sebastian and his co-conspirators have in mind, exactly. This clandestine group is also planting a strain of insiduous and fast-growing bamboo everywhere for the purpose of slowing things down. I could try to explain that, but I'm not sure I totally understood the rationale myself.

This story seems to just ramble on, with violent episodes interspersed with insipid dialogue. In the end, the surviving tribe members are in such starved straights that they must join Sebastian's Doctor Happy commune--where food is plentiful because everyone works for the common good and everyone's infected with Doctor Happy. The fact that they stand outside the commune's walls, debating whether or not to join when they are sick and starving is the last of the horribly unlikely scenarios. What? You mean if I wanna eat, I have to get happy, first? No way! Let's go off for more violence and starvation!

Oh, brother, what a waste of time. Anyone who is in the mood for a better rendition of this type of story should read Margaret Atwood's books Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. Much better choices.

I recently read my very first E.L.Doctorow novel, Billy Bathgate, and enjoyed it. At first, I was afraid that a coming of age story about a delinquent teenaged boy in 1935 wasn't going to be my kind of read, but then I really got into the story.

Speaking of crime (that's a jump, forgive me), we rented The Town, but didn't see all of it because the DVD was faulty. Ekim and I both shrugged this off because so far, the plot was so unlikely that we were already disappointed, anyway.

We had such a beautiful weekend, and it looks like this coming week will be just as nice. This must be noted and cherished. We had a lovely Sunday visit with both of our mothers, too. I could not have asked for a better weekend.

How 'bout you?


Doug said...

Science Fiction has a little more downside than other genres, I think. I recall "Planet Texas," for one.

Doug said...

I think the contagious illness in It was called "Captain Trips."

actonbell said...

Hmm, I didn't read Planet Texas--thanks for the warning. It's a good thing this was a Friday freebie. I do want to read The Hunger Game series eventually, though.

"Captain Trips" is a better name than Doctor Happy. There was nothing original here at all, it was worse than The Day of the Trifids for closure, too.

TLP said...

The book sounds pretty bad, but I enjoyed your review of it a lot.

You're right that The Town plot is outrageous, but I still enjoyed the movie.