Apocalypse novels are all the rage these days, and with good reason, as any rational person can sense that we are rapidly approaching some kind of great calamity. There are plenty of choices: climate change, rapidly depleting resources, drug resistant disease, or even a straight up revolution of the poorest 6 billion people killing and eating the richest 80. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind reading that last book. All things considered though, getting hit by a dark comet isn’t the unlikeliest by a long shot. After all, it’s happened before, presumably multiple times.
Matt’s J Pike’s Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor is a fast paced, cheerful novel, which somehow maintains an optimistic tone, despite the increasingly terrible things which befall our guy. It’s also laser focused on a small canvas, the day to day actions of a teenager in an Adelaide suburb, who worries about girls, and food, and spends half his time playing video games while the world turns to ash. One of the problems with apocalypse writing is that world building obligations are huge, and the temptation to address every single scientific and social impact, or even just cover the large ones is overpowering; what we are left with are massive bloated novels where the characters get lost. This is completely character driven, and the diary format works well because it very rarely intrudes on the story telling. It also allows us to suspend disbelief on certain assertions. For example, a teenager thinking they can build a hovercraft from fans and tires, and then going ahead and trying it and claiming success is quite believable, whereas the same thing narrated in third person would face a much higher degree of reader scrutiny and demand for technical details.
Perhaps the most famous comet impact novel is Lucifer’s Hammer (by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle), and it is almost the complete opposite of Dairy of a Survivor. The funny thing is, I liked both of them. The first was full of technical details and big ideas. Matt’s book was fast, easy, and probably precisely accurate as to how a teenager would face the apocalypse. I give it a 4 out of 5 because I read it in two days and I figure it’s accessible enough for general readers to enjoy.
Written on 4th February 2015 by Saad Hossain.
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