TIME CAPSULE by Mitch Berman


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Two survivors of The Bomb trek across the US, in a debut that tries to infuse the postnuclear holocaust landscape with the blithe spirit of the road novel. Lucky Max Debrick: the sax player recovers consciousness in the rubble of his New York recording studio to find that the blast that killed the other members of his jazz quartet has spared himself and his horn. He emerges into an inanimate world and walks to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before meeting another survivor, a middle-aged black engineer called Wolf, who demands a rendition of ""Strangers in the Night"" before asking for food. This sitcom ploy prefigures that familiar relationship wherein two guys trade insults only to wind up ace buddies. The rest of the story details their adventures on the road, most prominently their enforced stay in a heavily-armed community divided between workers and bucks (guards). After a comic-book escape, the buddies are overtaken by nuclear winter, but Wolf, seeking the trail of his brother Eddie, still insists on making detours to 7-Elevens, Eddie's old haunts. Max is disgusted: ""Great. Mankind has been bombed into oblivion and we, the standard-bearers of the human race, are going to go rummaging through convenience stores looking for Twinkles with telltale dents."" But the trail does lead to Eddie, now a crazy, homicidal Messiah, living with his followers beneath a missile site. The friends are forced to part, but after further tribulations have a tearful reunion beside the Pacific. This is no Vonnegut-style black comedy, but a fatuous (and labored) trivialization of the post-apocalyptic wasteland, offering as subtext the thought that if a cat knows how to blow that horn, he can chase those postnuclear blues away.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1986
Publisher: Putnam