Because all of life is stories.
Zombies. Aliens. Water wars. Nuclear fallout. Natural Disaster. Grey goo. Humanity has at some point drawn up plans for all of these, from the UN to the living room. But what if the real apocalypse is something we weren’t looking for? What if it were slightly…stickier? And smelled like strawberries? The second book from Mogworld author Yahtzee Croshaw gives us a look at just such a scenario.
“I woke up one morning to find that the entire city had been covered in a three-foot layer of man-eating jam.” So begins the saga of Travis, hopeless slacker protagonist. Tagging along with him for this hilariously epic game of “The Floor is Lava” are fellow apartment dwellers Don (Singleminded and highly annoyed software developer), Tim (He’s been preparing for the end times his entire life), Angela (The obsessive videographer), and X & Y (Two american military types that may or may not know more or less than they do or don’t let on…or off) There is a much larger cast of characters, several of which are fairly important to the plot, but all you really need to know about them is this: They aren’t the most Three-Dimensional bunch. Most of them sit very nicely inside a single trope, as the above characters have been so labeled. Everyone is pretty cookie cutter as far as the type of cliche they fall into, and their isn’t much beyond that going on underneath. This isn’t to say that they aren’t entertaining, because they definitely can be, and are for most of the novel. But they can grate on you, and there will be times you hope for half the cast to be eaten by the ever present jam just to shut them up, but overall I find them entertaining.
Now back to that whole man-eating jam thing. Travis awakes one morning and quickly discovers that the whole of Brisbane has been coated in a yard thick layer of strawberry preserve. Normally, just annoying. In this case, deadly. Anyone that enters the jam or comes near it is snatched up and digested like so much beef jerky. And when a helicopter carrying the intrepid and somewhat spooky X & Y crash lands in the middle of Don’s apartment it is decided that their current position is no longer tenable. The lovable (and again, somewhat annoying) band of rejects and misanthropes sets of rooftop by rooftop towards the local mall to meet up with the remaining survivor contingent.
Along the way we see just how ill-prepared any of these people, up to and including the one who is thrilled to death at the situation, really are. We see that the whole of society has gone mildly insane, and are dealing with it in their own ways, namely, piracy, lunacy, and murder. And all the while we are left wondering, just how far does the Jam extend away from Brisbane? Where did it come from? How did it get there? And is there something sinister going on underneath the fruity death machine?
In my review of Mogworld, I likened Croshaw to comedians such as Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie. While I still believe that at his best he has that potential, I don’t really see it here. The novel is entertaining to be sure, but it fails to surpass Mogworld, tends to ramble on without direction, and annoys you at times. The cover is very pretty, and I think that is decent metaphor for the book as a whole. The idea is superb, the key to a phenomenal story is in there, but it ultimately fails to deliver on it’s promise. In the end, it feels less like a satire and more like mean spiritedly poking fun at people he finds annoying. And in doing so makes the characters irritating.
I did read it the whole way through, and was fascinated by many parts and laughed out loud at quite a few others. But in the end, my reaction can be summed up in one word.