A speculative novel tells the story of a man and his unrequited crush who become survivors of an apocalyptic event.
Twenty-seven-year-old Chucho lives with his Uncle Rodrigo in Miami. Just a few months ago, Chucho was making good money writing for a fetish-porn website, but since it was shut down, he’s been forced to serve as a busboy at a local Brazilian steakhouse. He spends his shifts ogling the hostess, Shiraz Zirel, who will not give him the time of day. He’s just about given up hope that they will ever be together when, suddenly, everyone else disappears. Literally: “I woke up around 11 am on a Sunday, and the world was gone. Uncle Rodrigo was gone. My neighbors were gone. The streets were empty with cars strewn about in the middle of roads and in backyards.” Chucho explores the city, but can’t find another living soul. Then he goes to the restaurant to pick up his final check and finds none other than Shiraz: the girl of his dreams and the last woman in Miami. As it turns out, they’re not terribly compatible. After a lot of bickering, they decide to follow some mysterious blue lights in the sky down the coast, driving all the way to Key West. They’re just starting to get along when they run into another person and, oddly enough, it’s someone they know: Benito, a server from the steakhouse whom Shiraz used to hook up with. The information he has is even more astounding. The lights they have been seeing belong to a damaged flying saucer. But Chucho may not be able to fully trust Benito—or Shiraz—because both of them have a few secrets hidden in their pasts.
Zablah’s (Ciao! Miami, 2006) prose is frequently lyrical, particularly his colorful descriptions of Chucho’s world. “At some point early on my parents turned into a radiant blur,” the protagonist reflects early in the tale, “kind of like a falling star your eyes are trying to focus in on while taking an evening hike in the Everglades. And the older I got, the more they faded.” But the dialogue is less endearing, as the three characters frequently engage in inane conversations overladen with distracting profanity and—in the case of the men—misogynistic language. Chucho is supposed to be 27, but his outlook on sex and relationships seems more akin to that of a 17-year-old. The novel is told in three parts, one each from the perspectives of Chucho, Shiraz, and Benito, and as the point of view shifts, new and illuminating information is provided. Even so, a great deal of material is repeated, and the story’s momentum stalls significantly when the narrator changes from Chucho to Shiraz. The book shows a lot of potential—the writing is sound, the setting is intriguing, and the author manages to make this familiar premise seem fresh. Unfortunately, the plot really breaks down at a certain point and never gets moving again.
A promising but unrealized dystopian tale.