Apocalypticon by Clayton Smith was another I book found lurking in my “To Read” list that when I went to borrow it on Kindle Unlimited found I’d already snagged it free a few years ago as part of a giveaway.
Once I located it on my Kindle, I cracked it open and read a few chapters. Thought about it a bit. Read a few more chapters. Gave up and read the Defragmenting Daniel trilogy. Thought some more about it and started reading it again.
Why? Because I was having a hard time deciding whether or not I liked this book. I really don’t like giving up on books, and will generally stick them out unless I just can’t go on. This is why I took a break from Apocalypticon. I wanted to finish it, but I was having such a hard time getting into it. First, let’s check out the blurb:
Three years have passed since the Jamaicans caused the apocalypse, and things in post-Armageddon Chicago have settled into a new kind of normal. Unfortunately, that “normal” includes collapsing skyscrapers, bands of bloodthirsty maniacs, and a dwindling cache of survival supplies. After watching his family, friends, and most of the non-sadistic elements of society crumble around him, Patrick decides it’s time to cross one last item off his bucket list.
He’s going to Disney World.
This hilarious, heartfelt, gut-wrenching odyssey through post-apocalyptic America is a pilgrimage peppered with peril, as fellow survivors Patrick and Ben encounter a slew of odd characters, from zombie politicians and deranged survivalists to a milky-eyed oracle who doesn’t have a lot of good news. Plus, it looks like Patrick may be hiding the real reason for their mission to the Magic Kingdom…
So for about the past half-century, Jamaica has been funnelling tourist dollars into a secret chemical weapons program, with the ultimate aim of destroying the world. Or at least the USA, but I got the impression throughout the book though the rest of world had mostly been wiped out too. So naturally when they attack it comes as a complete surprise (like being mugged by Canada I guess) and most of the world dies.
Patrick and Ben are two wise-cracking (think Gilmore Girls type banter) who have survived and are trying to make the most of their post-apocalyptic life. We join them after a few years have passed as they’re preparing to leave Chicago on a pilgrimage south to Disney World in Florida. Initially it seems like a random destination, but little clues fed to us in the beginning and then throughout speak to the true nature of the trip.
Along the way they face an array of insane individuals, all twisted in their own unique way by the apocalypse. Gangs who have taken over bridges and demand tolls paid in whatever you’ve got (food, weapons, booze), a mad Amtrak conductor and his lackeys, almost indestructible zombie-ish type people, cults of religious nutbags, and one especially creepy household that haven’t noticed the apocalypse has come.
For some reason most of the people who survived were either psychopaths or otherwise deranged, or have become so since. Probably one of my favourite moments involved a buffalo they adopt along the way that possesses mad ninja-like skills. Either way it makes for an interesting journey.
There’s a side story where they’re being stalked across the country by some of the train lackeys they managed to piss off. I get these guys were psycho’s and hell bent on revenge, however I could have lived without reading about how their plans involved raping basically everyone they came across, including children. Felt out of place given the rest of the novel’s humorous bent.
The main problem I had and the reason why I first put it aside was I felt the dialogue between Ben and Patrick was a little unbelievable. Witty banter is fine, but it seemed like that was the only way these guy could communicate with anyone. It settled down a bit as the novel progressed, which is why I ultimately went back to it.
At first I thought Patrick’s nihilistic behaviour and general attitude towards life seemed in contradiction of his desire to get to Disney World, but looking back on it ultimately it makes sense. His character runs a lot deeper than first appears, and I found that most apparent in retrospect.
The big payoff for this novel is the ending, and I am so glad I came back to finish it. A poignant moment that made me wish I had “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds playing in the background as I read it.
Proof that end of the world can also be entertaining, and if you find yourself in this situation then locate your nearest buffalo.