We frequently receive packages from publishers, publicity companies, and marketing firms, but it’s safe to say that the envelope that arrived last week from Jersey Devil Press contained one of the oddest books we’ve been sent. It was the company’s debut novel, Exponential Apocalypse by Eirik Gumeney, and it’s one of the most brilliantly weird books I’ve read in a long, long time.
Here’s the setup: At some point in the future, the world lies in awkward shambles. It’s been through so many apocalypses (twenty-two, to be exact) that the so-called end of the world has become a common occurrence for the remaining citizens. The world has ended by zombie outbreak, robot uprising, wars of varying degrees and theaters, and several more bizarre means. The only problem is that none of these supposedly creation-ending occurrences actually ended the world once and for all. Rather, they unleashed the likes of the undead, cyborgs, and werewolves onto the planet, toppled nearly every major government, and apparently made every remaining vestige of reality at least a little bit insane. But wait, it gets even better.
At some point during all of this, science unequivocally disproved religion. When that happened, all the gods (who, it turns out, really did exist in ethereal forms, science be damned) became earthbound as humans. Thor, the Norse god of thunder, fell from Asgard to Secaucus, where he’s working the desk at a Holiday Inn at the start of our story. Elsewhere, Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec serpent god of wind, took the demise of religion with less grace, and he’s degenerated into an insane and gibbering fool with a psychotic bent. Oh, but wait, there’s still more!
Adding to the cast of characters are the last remaining clones of three previous world leaders: Chester A. Arthur XVII, William H. Taft XLII, and Queen Victoria XXX, all of whom now find themselves adrift in something of a post-apocalyptic road trip across an increasingly mad America. Oh, and there’s a telekinetic squirrel, but he doesn’t come in until much later.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Exponential Apocalypse is an absurd exercise in randomness and dark humor that somehow comes together into a fast and compelling read. I had my doubts when I picked up the book, but the wacky characters and ever crazier plot turns kept me hooked the whole way and really won me over. Most of the eighty-four chapters are a page or less in length, and the majority of the story is dialogue, which pushes things along at a breakneck speed. Some of the dialogue takes a little getting used to, as most of the characters occasionally lapse into “dude” talk. You’ll be able to finish it in a day, but you’ll be telling your friends about this crazy book with gods and cloned presidents and squirrels long after you’ve turned the last page.
This debut novel is utter insanity, and it definitely owes some inspiration to Douglas Adams, albeit with more “f-bombs” and hookers than I recall seeing in the Hitchhiker’s Guide. It’s a fun read that at times comes up with some fantastic bona fide sci-fi settings and ideas, in spite of its own absurdity. After reading Exponential Apocalypse, I’m convinced that Eirik Gumeny either is a genius or is absolutely as mad as his brain-addled version of Quetzalcoatl. I’m guessing it’s the former, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to his next work, if he doesn’t end the world once and for all first.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars