Book Review: Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh (Audiobook narrated by Erik Davies)
Jasper can’t believe he’s actually homeless, although a lot more people are homeless now than used to be. But still. He got his BA in sociology. He’s worked hard. How did this happen? He’s living with a tribe of other 20-somethings. They keep hoping things will get better, but somehow they just seem to keep getting worse. The economy doesn’t improve. Home-grown terrorists known as Jumpy-jumps start routinely terrorizing people. Driving anywhere, having dependable food, actual working police forces, they’re all a thing of the past. Not all apocalypses happen overnight.
I actually hesitated over keeping this book on my wishlist, but I’m very glad I did. I found it to be not quite what I was expecting. In a good way.
I think a lot of men in particular will enjoy it, because it kind of reminds me of a Judd Apatow film. There’s this complete and utter loser guy who you entirely hate (and I suspect McIntosh hates too) but who is just so damn funny you keep reading it. A lot of apocalypse books focus in on a strong leader type, but Jasper is actually a coward who just keeps trying to squeak by. On top of that, he claims to be looking for true love, but is actually completely lacking in any understanding of women. One of his “apt” observations, for instance, consists of stating to a guy friend, “Have you noticed that fat women have been getting hotter?” He’s trying to say that the more starvation threatens, the more attracted he is to women who obviously have enough to eat. But he isn’t philosophical about it at all, and that’s kind of hilarious. He also tries to impress a girl at one point by commenting on the fact that she’s reading a book, but he says it in such a way that it’s obvious he himself doesn’t read at all, which is utterly baffling in a world that no longer has electricity or other entertainment. Basically the whole book is laughing at a cowardly dude-bro, and that’s fun.
The apocalypse itself is quite creative. As the title and blurb imply, it’s a slow one. Gradual. Things get bad and just never get better then more things get bad. It’s a creative mix of economics, homegrown terrorist groups, scientists trying to make things better but actually making it worse, and international politics. None of it came across as utterly absurd or ridiculous, which shows that McIntosh did a good job.
There are two scenes that are truly horrific, which of course I loved. There’s a very creative death scene that I think will haunt me for a long time. (Again, that’s a good thing). The plot overall is a bit meandering, but that makes sense since Jasper isn’t the most focused or proactive dude on the planet. I’m a little sad the book ended when it did. I get why McIntosh ended it there, leaving things open-ended for readers, but….I could have read about Jasper much much longer. Yes, he’s a guy I would hate beyond all reason in real life, but I guess that schadenfreude factor is what makes the book so fun.
Now, I did read the audiobook, and I have to say I was very disappointed in the narration by Erik Davies. It does not live up to the content of the book at all. My main problem with him is that he does that awful thing of putting on what he thinks is a woman’s voice every time one of them speaks, but what actually sounds like a small child and nothing like us. I actually had to stop and rewind a couple of times to double-check if I was angry at how the book was portraying women or if the narrator was making it seem like the book was portraying women as childish idiots. Suffice to say, it’s definitely the narration, not the book. Yes, Jasper objectifies women and basically calls any woman who doesn’t fit into his definition of what a woman should be “crazy,” but the whole book is laughing at him, so really the book is showing how ridiculous it is to view women like that. The narrator reading women in this childish voice really messes with that whole presentation. So, definitely don’t get the audiobook.
Overall, then, this is a fun apocalyptic scifi featuring a cowardly loser who is delightful to follow and laugh at. I highly recommend it to scifi fans who also enjoy slacker flicks, but definitely get the print or ebook versions, not the audio.
4 out of 5 stars