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by Victor Gischler

Pub Date: July 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4165-5225-3
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Crime novelist Gischler (Shotgun Opera, 2006, etc.) takes his first stab at science fiction with this goofy but engaging tale of life after the end of the world.

Nine years after the apocalypse, former insurance salesman Mortimer Tate emerges from his cabin in the Tennessee mountains to rejoin the world and finds it a chaotic, dangerous place. Decimated by plague, earthquakes and nuclear war (all of which Gischler dispatches in less than two pages), the United States has descended into feudalism and barbaric nastiness, as is often the case in post-apocalyptic novels. Gischler offers a sometimes awkward balance of disturbing looks into the dark recesses of human nature (rape, cannibalism and slavery all play prominent roles in this new world) and jaunty, lighthearted takes on surviving the collapse of civilization. Nothing quite lives up to the gonzo promise of the title, although a chain of strip clubs known as Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go is posited as the key element in the rebuilding of society. Like a sort of post-apocalyptic Candide, Mortimer bumbles through various self-contained cultures, including a surreal interlude at a mental hospital and a visit with some disturbingly banal flesh-eaters. Sometimes it’s a bit too over the top, but the pace remains brisk throughout, and everyman Mortimer is a likable protagonist, remaining steadfast even as it becomes more and more apparent that he would have been better off just staying hidden away in his secluded bunker. As the story builds to its climax, with Mortimer tracking down his ex-wife, Gischler focuses a little too much on action over character and the amusing plot details that make most of the book so much fun to read.

A mostly successful book that favors clever atmosphere over plot.