Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh
Read by Erik Davies
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction
Quick Thoughts: A deliberately paced apocalyptic tale outlining the gradual breakdown of society. Fans of sci-fi adventures may find the pacing too slow, yet those who enjoyed McCarthy’s The Road or Crace’s The Pesthouse should find this worth a listen.
One of the reasons I was happy that the apocalypse didn’t happen on May 21 was that the apocalyptic novel Soft Apocalypse wasn’t being released on audio until June. You see, while reading and listening about tales of the apocalypse is one of my favorite pastimes, being involved in said world ending events are not on the top of my to-do list. While I am a fan of the Post Apocalyptic novel, I think there are issues about the term itself. In essence, a true “Post Apocalyptic” novel would describe events occurring after the apocalyptic event. It would be the tale of the survivors, whether they survived plague, nuclear war, astronomical impact events or flesh eating mobile plants. Where as Apocalyptic novels would describe events occurring during the midst of a world remaking disaster. This is why I hate labels. You know when you post your review of The Stand by Stephen King, some internet troll will object to your use of either of the terms, as well as critiquing your grammar and scoffing at your use of HTLM. So, back to the object of my review, Soft Apocalypse is the debut novel of Hugo winning author Will McIntosh. For you labeling fans, I would call Soft Apocalypse a perpetual apocalypse novel. Instead of one big event, Soft Apocalypse describes the gradual breakdown of society due to a multitude of issues.
Soft Apocalypse is a hard novel to say you enjoyed. As a fan of apocalyptic fiction I was fascinated by the novel. I am glad I listened to it. Yet, it is such a grave look at our world’s potential fate. What truly is scary is its realism. This is not a novel about escapism, because many of the issues that are brought forth as causal factors in McIntosh’s slow crawl to desolation are issues we see peppering our newspapers today. McIntosh embraces so many of the apocalyptic tropes that his novel didn’t just remind me of one or two novels, but of almost the entire catalogue of the subgenre. You had economic breakdown similar to Gordon R. Dickson’s Wolf and Iron, environmental collapse on the scale of Strieber and Kunetka’s Nature’s End, heck, there is even a shout out to Ward Moore’s Greener than You Think. Add to that, terrorism, plagues, genetic engineering, energy shortages, zombie like infected, civil unrest and nuclear war, and you have the full kaleidoscope of a slow Apocalypse. As a novel, McIntosh creates some fascinating characters that escort us through society’s breakdown, particularly Jasper our main character. Despite the darkness of the novel, and its moments of brutality and tragedy, Jasper remains our compass, detailing his search for love in a dying world. Jasper and his tribe of nomads are some of the strongest characters I have read in an apocalyptic novel, which only makes the brutality of the world that much more unbearable.
Erik Davies handles the narration is a slow, deliberate pace. As the novel progresses and the stresses of each ensuing event builds in a characters, Davies pace also becomes burdened, matching the tone of the novel perfectly. Davies captured the heartbreak of Jasper perfectly, chronicling with his voice, as McIntosh does with his prose, the weight of the end of the world pushing down on Jasper’s shoulders. This is not a novel full of action and adventure, in fact, in some ways it is the antithesis of action adventure. Those who are looking for a fast paced science fiction tale may find it hard to remain focused on the narrative. Yet fans of books like The Road, or Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse should find this tale worth a listen.