Monday, July 25, 2011

8 Reasons the Apocalypse Probably Isn't as Cool as it Sounds

I have an unhealthy fascination with stories about the apocalypse. The Stand is one of my three favorite books, but the truth is, I love the genre so much that I have no ability to discern what constitutes good apocalyptic fiction (or movies) from bad. None. Because in my mind, it's ALL GOOD.  

I think this is partly because I imagine myself in the role of the main character (or if not the main character, someone awfully important) and wonder what it would be like to find out what I'm truly made of while traipsing around a haunted funhouse version of America. Wow, Manhattan looks as weird in person as it did in I Am Legend! Boy, they really nailed it!

Plus, these kinds of stories serve as good backdrops for battles of good versus evil, religious discussions, and all manner of themes that I find fascinating, and so it's hard not to imagine how you would do out there, camping by the interstate, drinking boiled water and so on.  

But  have we ever really considered what the apocalypse would be like? 

With that, I unveil my list of eight reasons the apocalypse probably isn't as awesome as we think. 

1. The Surviving Thing 

Those people we come to love and root for in apocalyptic fiction? They're the rare, rare exception. Remember -- the vast majority of us have to die for the survivors to be able to claim they're living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Me? I'll probably die during the first week of the outbreak, before anyone even realizes that there's some nasty new bug going around. You? You'll make it to the second or third wave of infection, right about the time you think you're going to survive and then, oopsie, your lung tissue turns into tapioca. I know you think you're special, but you'll probably be buried at sea with thousands of other plague victims. 

2. The Nuclear Thing

Some months back, I watched a documentary called Life After People (I also watched Aftermath: Population Zero, and the fact that there were two shows produced revolving around this premise should really tell you something about the popularity of the genre). Anyway, there was a brief discussion about the fate of America's nuclear reactors in the event no one was around to keep entering the numbers from Lost and pushing the button (or whatever it is people do to keep reactors from melting down). As I recall, without someone at the wheel, the cooling systems will ultimately fail, and this would be extremely, extremely bad, and let's just say that I hope you find a nice house with a lead-lined basement. 

3. The Loneliness Thing 

Let's say you DO survive. Great. You're the only living human being in any direction for a hundred miles. You'll backpack down to the coast to pick out that awesome beach house you can finally afford, and then after three weeks, you'll be looking back on those lonely Saturday nights in high school and thinking, "whoo, what I wouldn't give for my old Dungeons and Dragons crew to get together!" This is a big damn country. No one's ever going to see you again. 

4. The Undead Thing

I love zombies and vampires (I mean the bad-ass ones from The Passage, not the pretty boys from Twilight), but I'm sorry to say that in the unlikely event we do reformat humanity's hard drive, it probably won't because of some undead virus. There will be no army of evil to fight. I know you've got pictures in your mind about being there as humanity makes its last stand at Yonkers (because I know you read World War Z) or in Philadelphia (because not only did Justin Cronin write one book at about the End Of The World, that sumbitch has promised us THREE!). Forget it. It's going to be some heretofore unknown swamp fever that gets us, and how much you wanna bet it's going to be gastrointestinal in nature? 

5. The What the F*** Was I Thinking Thing

There are probably thousands of people out there, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, who would welcome the apocalypse tomorrow. Stands to reason that at least one of them would survive. Law of averages and all. And then like two weeks in, he's gonna be like, "Those stupid m***** f****** from the Apocalypse Now! message boards didn't know what the f*** they were talking about! Hot survivors my ass! I haven't seen anyone, let alone any good looking girls!"  

6. The Hero Thing

A common trope in apocalyptic fiction is that the main character's true self is revealed in the face of total destruction. Perhaps people are drawn to these stories because they believe that like the characters they come to adore, they too are destined for greatness, but it's their station in life that prevents them from reaching their true potential.  

Well, I've got bad news for you. You'll almost certainly be murdered by the first person you meet because he's too scared and wigged out to find out the apocalypse has brought out the best in you. Or you'll slice your foot open and die of a bacterial infection somewhere along Interstate 10. 

7. The Alien Thing

If most of us are dead, no intelligent species is going to mess around with this planet-sized hot zone. Instead, they'll crinkle their little alien snouts and say to each other telepathically, "Do you SMELL that?"  

8. The Watching All Your Loved Ones Die Thing

If you survive the apocalypse, you'll have what I'm sure is the singular pleasure of watching every person you love die. Boy, doesn't THAT sound exciting? There's a reason that most of our favorite characters from apocalyptic fiction are loners or have little in the way of family when the story opens. 

I'm not the biggest fantasy reader (although I am currently enjoying A Game of Thrones), so apocalyptic fiction is the biggest escape I get as a reader. Like with any good fantasy novel, you're plunged into these fantastical scenarios (without the awkwardness of character names containing three apostrophes), but the thing that sets it apart from the fantasy genre is that these stories are set in a very familiar locale -- your own backyard, rather than the Northern Kingdom of the Seventh Realm of G'la'm'in.

So I will keep on right on reading and watching my beloved stories of the apocalypse. But I'll thank it to stay fictional. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

First Book Review of The Jackpot!

OK, I wasn't PERFECT, but I did a pretty good job staying off the Inter-Tubes all weekend.

And I had a good reason for slipping up -- I found out that my first "official" book review was going to be posted Saturday, so I did hop online to read it that afternoon.

Brief background: I've submitted The Jackpot to a number of book bloggers, the Internet-based book reviewers who've become hugely important in driving the sales of both traditionally published and self-published books. Amanda Hocking, the self-publishing superstar, wrote on her blog that she owes much of her early success to the positive reviews she got from these book bloggers. And these days, with thousands of novelists trying to get their books noticed, it's hard to find a book blogger who isn't backed up for weeks, if not months -- if they're still open to submissions at all.

So I was very pleased to read Lynnette Phillips' (from Lynnette's Book World) excellent review of The Jackpot, which you can read here. I've been pooping bricks waiting on these reviews, so getting such a good one from such a big book review site is very exciting indeed.

My favorite part of the review: "The fast-pace and rich details of this thriller combined with the entertaining and crisp dialogue of Jackpot make this novel and David Kazzie a new favorite."

Have a great week.