Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Soft Apocalypse (Book Review)

Disclaimer, I originally wrote this for a forum at homeprepping.com. Check them out, I recommend their site. The book is of course titled Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh.

I found this book on Amazon one day looking at other SHTF books. The title caught my eye and I started reading reviews. Most were positive so I thought: "what the heck, I'm intrigued".

Let me first say that this book is dark, very dark. I wouldn't be surprised at all (in fact I strongly suspect) that the author, Will McIntosh, used Argentina as his backdrop even though it is set 20+ years into the future of the US.

The economy has crashed, there are hints of peak oil and some climate change but we're mostly left in the dark as to what happened in the past and what the real details are to circumstances going on around the main character, named Jasper (I don't think we ever learn his last name).

Instead of the typical "crash, society ends, now pick up the pieces" type of plot this book is like being forced to watch your pet drown in the swimming pool. It is not a story of some hero who saves the locals and defeats the bad guys. Most of the time no one knows who the bad guys really are and (as in a real SHTF) it all depends on who you are and what your status is. At one point we are told that unemployment rate is 40% and we are constantly bombarded with poor, homeless, and destitute people.

Jasper's story is like a collection of short stories spread out over ten years. We start in 2023 and end in 2033. Each chapter skips a few months or years so as not to bore us with the little life details. When we first meet Jasper he is homeless; interestingly enough that is how he ends the book as well. Throughout the book he and his "tribe" find homes and work that hardly pays the bills. Jasper is an interesting case study as a character. I am sure one of my old college English prof's would have enjoyed torturing a bunch of freshmen with all the ups and downs of his character. He wants stability, love, acceptance, and most of all a chance at a better life. Despite his somewhat left world view Jasper is a true Capitalist. By the middle of the book he starts selling various herbs (medicine is expensive) in the little convenient store he works at, making a little extra for his boss and himself. Jasper's biggest downfall is women. He dates many and likes more but he seems to have a hard time finding "the one"... for most of the book.

There are a lot of tough topics covered in this book, rape, murder, and ethnic cleansing, to name a few. I often found myself hoping the book would brighten up more. I waited for Jasper to find a way to make his own little part of the world better but at the same time knew in the back of my mind the author wasn't trying for a warm and fuzzy story. Will McIntosh keeps you suspended in a slow meat grinder of despair hanging to the very end and still left me wondering a little when the story ended.

Would I recommend it? Yes, but with reservations. It was meant to portray what a slow economical decline would look like in the US and many people would dismiss this as pure fiction. Those of us that study history will recognize the subtle truths and maybe even warnings sewn through the story.

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