Title: Soft Apocalypse
Author: Will McIntosh
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Will McIntosh does a brilliant job with his debut novel. Soft Apocalypse is the chronicle of the collapse of the world shown through the eyes and perspective of Jasper, the twenty-something protagonist of this apocalyptic tale. Set primarily in Savannah, GA, Soft Apocalypse is the cautionary tale, whispering behind your ear that the world will not come tumbling down in a roar of devastation and destruction but whimper in like a slow boiling pot of water. And we, the frogs sitting in that fatal bath, won’t even know we are being boiled alive until it’s too late.
The story takes place over the course of one decade. We meet Jasper, the main character and narrator in 2023 as he deals with the bigotry towards those forced to live on the streets, due to the slow collapse of the economy, in parallel with his ambiguous relationship with Sophia, his on-again-off-again married girlfriend. Jasper lives with a “tribe,” a small collection of other men and women who just happened to be in the wrong place, or earned the wrong college degree, that led to their current homeless state. They are a family of sorts, each member helping to contribute something to the livelihood of their little collective, be it searching for fresh water, cooking up that day’s meal or going in search of goods to barter for. The story follows Jasper as he gets his life back together, enough so to work as a clerk in a convenient store and help out the other members of his tribe. Jasper finds love and companionship. Jasper watches as his tribe mates go on to marry and have children or pursue a doctoral degree. Life isn’t exactly the normal he remembers as a child, but sometimes, it feels like it might be a new type of normal that might be okay.
But with each glimmer of hope and civility, Jasper is forced to face the harsh evolution — or devolution, rather — of society. It is a reality he doesn’t want to admit exists. Soon, things take a turn for an unrecoverable worse forcing Jasper and his tribe mates to go on the run. But what if what they are running from is the only chance they have to return to a normal type of life?
In order to cover a decade of one man’s life in a 239-page book, time progresses quickly. However, the story still moves rather slowly. Chapter one takes place in 2023, chapter two covers a moment in time during the fall of 2024. Each chapter reads almost like a short story unto itself. Which makes sense, considering McIntosh’s history as a prolific writer of short stories. (Readers can find his work in such anthologies as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, Science Fiction: Best of 2009, and my personal favorite, The Living Dead.)
I really enjoyed reading this book. It felt like Stephen King’s The Stand without the good versus evil religious over and undertones to it and with just a bit of the “Okay, we survived the zombie invasion, now what?” that is implied at the end of every zombie film I’ve watched. The downfall of man is not a virus that brings about a fight between God’s chosen and Satan’s chosen. The downfall of man is not due to a hoard of slow shambling or fast running zombies. Rather, the fall of man just happens due to man’s own ignorance. There is no passion, no hot or cold emotions behind the reasoning. It just apathetically is. And when you think about it, that is far more terrifying than anything Stephen King or George Romero could offer up.
If you enjoyed Stephen King’s The Stand or are looking for an apocalyptic tale that goes at a far more realistic and therefore more frightening pace, Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse is the book for you.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars