27 April 2015

Review: Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh


Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Originally published: 2011 by Night Shade Books

Pages: 368

Genre/s: Apocalypse, Science Fiction

Source: Own library

Find It: Goodreads ~ Amazon

Synopsis

What happens when resources become scarce and society starts to crumble? As the competition for resources pulls America's previously stable society apart, the "New Normal" is a Soft Apocalypse. This is how our world ends; with a whimper instead of a bang. New social structures and tribal connections spring up across America, as the previous social structures begin to dissolve. Locus Award finalist and John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalist Soft Apocalypse follows the journey across the Southeast of a tribe of formerly middle class Americans as they struggle to find a place for themselves and their children in a new, dangerous world that still carries the ghostly echoes of their previous lives.

My Thoughts

McIntosh’s debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, is a bit of a different take on the apocalyptic genre – rather than one event being the tipping point that pushes the world into full melt-down, it’s a thirteen year ride through a gradually deteriorating world.

Soft Apocalypse is told through the perspective of Jasper – who at the beginning of the novel is living with his nomadic ‘tribe’, homeless due to rocketing unemployment that has made their skills and education obsolete. On first impression I didn’t particularly like nor dislike Jasper – he didn’t seem to have any real passion or personality, and I was cautious as to how I would feel after spending a whole book with him. However, as the story progressed, I found myself liking him more and more, despite the fact that he spends a lot of time obsessing about finding true love, which sounds a little odd for an apocalyptic novel, but worked quite well for me.

The story also revolves around Jasper’s group of friends, who initially form his tribe, and later remain close through the ups and downs of the story as the world gradually falls more and more apart. I found most of the characters either likeable and could understand why they did certain things – even if at times Jasper’s never-ending quest for true love was a little irritating, when the world is falling apart in stages, there would be times when the survival adrenalin stops pumping and hormones and the need to be with someone are leading emotions.

For those who like to know all the details of why, when and how the apocalypse occurs, Soft Apocalypse may be a little disappointing. McIntosh limits the story to the characters and what they themselves know through media or personal experience – there are quite a few tantalising hints at what is happening outside the group’s immediate experiences, but I preferred the lack of info-dumping – it fit the plot much better. The parts that are revealed I found infinitely fascinating, the splintering of law and order into different factions with their own agendas, bio-terrorism and engineered viruses were all new ideas to me and were convincingly presented in their implementation, if not in the science.

The action ebbs and flows throughout the story, and perhaps the only real disappointment was the large time jumps where something major had obviously happened to change the fortunes of the characters, but the details fall into the gaps between.

Although I enjoyed the whole of Soft Apocalypse, it was the last third or so that really hooked me in, not surprisingly it’s where the stakes are raised and the action really picks up, and again, it was fitting for this novel.

As the second McIntosh novel that I’ve read, the comparison between his debut and his most recent novel, Love Minus Eighty is easy for me to make – McIntosh obviously aims to make his characters, and their relationships the driver of his novels, and has a knack for tantalising science fiction which poses new ideas without going into great detail of the execution – which is actually MY kind of science-fiction read.

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