Marcus Alexander Hart,
The Oblivion Society
(Permuted Press, 2007)

I'm going to start by saying author Marcus Alexander Hart can turn a phrase like almost no other. I would be so bold as to call his talent almost Twain-like -- had Mark Twain written comical post-apocalyptic satire. You know, the cover of the novel (which, in case it changes for a later edition, features a cute geeky redhead sporting bat wings and riding a rocket) puts me in mind of Dr. Strangelove, and maybe that is as it should be because this story has more than a few moments that approach the ironic wit displayed so brilliantly in that dark comedy classic.

The Oblivion Society is a most exclusive little club; to be a member, you have to accidentally survive a nuclear apocalypse, complain constantly like Fred Sanford on a really bad day, learn to accept and hopefully make use of whatever horrible mutations your body might manifest at the hands of atomic mutant attacks, and somehow endure ungodly amounts of pain and suffering on numerous occasions.

The charter society members are, as far as they know, the only five people alive. First and foremost, there's Vivian Gray, who thought life couldn't possibly get worse after being fired by her idiot boss at the local market (she was quite wrong, obviously). Then there's Vivian's brother Bobby and his best bud Erik, two paragons of lazy geekdom; Vivian's bitterly cynical, constantly high and/or drunk former co-worker Sherri; and Trent, the outsider in this little circle. Trent is one of those guys you really don't want to be stuck with in an apocalyptic scenario (or any other scenario) -- when he's not describing the nuclear holocaust in Biblical terms, he's trying to hook up with Vivian, who's having none of it.

With what's left of their hometown enshrouded in a disquieting red haze, the gang decides to head out and look for other survivors, sure that help and healing for their assorted, potentially grievous wounds can't be far away. Just getting on their way is hard enough, with virtually all vehicles having been rendered inoperative by the nuclear explosion, but the uncertain journey proves even harder. Not only do our heroes find nothing but further destruction wherever they go, they have a number of run-ins with frighteningly mutated creatures -- and, as you might guess, nothing good comes from being clawed, scratched and bitten by radioactive house-sized cats, gigantic spiders and other mutant creatures.

Some people say this novel has no real plot, no destination. I don't agree, but this is definitely a case where the journey is what really matters. The dialogue between these characters is a cornucopia of fast and furious zingers, but Hart takes things even farther, penning some of the most brilliantly witty descriptions you're likely to find. The end result is a wickedly funny novel from start to finish.

book review by
Daniel Jolley

28 August 2010

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