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The idea behind this blog is to share my opinions about Post-Apocalyptic Literature, Films and Ephemera as well as my random nattering on a regular basis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Go-Go Girls Of The Apocalypse

Most apocalyptic books follow the same basic traditions and prototypes. You can always count on certain plot elements and themes occurring. Most times you can bet on the survivors resorting to cannibalism. Cannibalism met with different reaction in the various books. In the Change World series (or The Emberverse series as we seem to be required to call it now) cannibals, or Eaters, are killed on sight while they are, ironically, glossed over in other books. Most notably in World War Z by Max Brooks.

Another plot element is the journey. In nearly every PA book one character is on a quest. Sometimes the quest is to find a specific thing. Rudy in the The Emberverse series is questing for the Sword of the Lady, Chaka Endine searches for Haven and the lost secrets of the Roadmakers in Eternity Road and in Mister Touch by Malcolm Bosse the survivors are simply in search of safety and air they can breath easier.

Most times however the quest is for a person. A son, a daughter, a wife, someone you got separated from when the world went to hell. This is the case in Go-Go Girls Of The Apocalypse by Victor Gischler. Mortimer Tate sees the looming apocalypse and acts accordingly. He gathers up a bunch of survival gear, food, alcohol, guns and of course porn then heads for the hills as everything goes nuts. First a flu pandemic that almost ends it for the world. After a near brush with death the San AndrĂ©a’s Fault activates and destroys most of the West Coast of the United States. FEMA takes over. Soon after the stock market collapses and a terrorist strike in Washington DC kills most of the members of the House and Senate. After that the world goes at it.

Mortimer hunkers in his cave for nine years. When he ventures out he is taken prisoner and after a bit of trouble is rescued by a person who soon becomes his best friend. Mortimer falls into classic PA stereotype and decides to journey to Spring City, Tennessee to find his wife. He finds that she is a stripper at Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go. But she is such a great stripper she has been sent to the main Joey Armageddon’s at Chattanooga. The place is like a fortress and sits on top of Lookout Mountain. After meeting Joey himself Mortimer finds out his wife has been kidnapped and is being held in ‘The Forbidden City of Atlanta.’ So the journey continues.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is how it wove real places into the description (well I guess most PA books do). Most books don’t have real products and the back story about why they still around. I found the Jack Daniel’s label fascinating. A tiny microcosm of the book:

“Hey!” Bill held up his tumbler, swirled the amber liquid. “What’s this stuff?”
The waitress looked at him like maybe it was a trick question. “Jack Daniel’s.”
“I know. I mean who makes it? It practically tastes like the real thing.”
“It is the real thing,” she said. “The distillery never closed. You can read about it here.” She turned the bottle around so the back label faced Bill.
“I’ll be damned,” Bill said. “They still make the stuff.” He squinted at the label’s fine print.
“Read it,” Mortimer said.

Jack Daniel’s: The Tradition Survives

Much blood has been spilled to preserve the smooth-sipping Tennessee whisky you’ve enjoyed through good times and bad. Governments rise and fall, but the recipe for your favorite adult beverage has remained unchanged even as the world as we know it has been through the wringer. You can count on our seasoned and indestructible distillers to continue bringing you the finest whiskey in what’s left of the known world.

A mere three months after the Fall, humanity quickly discovered it did not want to endure the end of all civilization sober, so raiding parties at the Jack Daniel’s distillery were frequent and disruptive. The owners soon gathered the remaining distillery employees into fighting militias known as the Jack Squad. With the help of some intrepid local NRA enthusiasts, Fort Lynchburg was built and defended. The fort almost fell to a band of wild Civil War reenactors who had replaced their muzzle-loaders with army-surplus M1 rifles. At last, General Ira “Stonewall” Weinstein surrendered his sword before being hung from a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, where his bones still hang today as a reminder for those who’d fuck with producers of the finest, smoothest liquor ever made by true Americans.

So challenges come and go, but Jack Daniel’s pledges to keep using only the best, purest ingredients available. Unlike those responsible for the short-lived resurgence of Sam Adam’s beer, Jack Daniel’s promises to use pure spring water, free of radioactive or other toxic materials.

So whether you’re fleeing violent rape gangs, remembering those lost loved ones, or daydreaming of a future where wild dogs no longer roam the streets, we hope you’ll keep making Jack Daniel’s your preferred beverage.

I have to mention one thing here. Also careful I am going to ruin a portion of the ending. I recently finished reading A For Anything by Damon Knight. The two books basically have nothing in common. In A for Anything the world ends because of a device called the ‘Gismo’. As the title implies if one possesses a Gismo they can make anything they want. The only problem is that a Gismo won’t do the jobs everyday people did so they could make money to buy things.

But the Gizmo also makes people. These people are not considered human and are duplicated and then destroyed when they are no longer needed. Society is run mostly through slave labor to the tune of about 300 slaves to 1 not slave. The final undoing of the society in A for Anything is a slave uprising. In Go-Go Girls Of The Apocalypse electricity to run comfort items is provided by indentured servants, hundreds of them. The fledgling society lives on the sweat of slaves. It could only be a matter of time before the slaves figured out they outnumbered their masters and a portion of the final ending is a slave revolt. While I do recommend Go-Go Girls as a solid PA read I can only recommend A for Anything as on alright Sci-Fi book.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two Things At Once

A discussion of both The Girl Who Owned A City by OT Nelson and The Happening a film by M. Night Shyamalan and not the wicked awesome album by The Descendants.

First let me assure everyone, I do understand this is young adult novel. I am not a young adult and because I am not I read it with perhaps different eyes and have higher expectations. I do enjoy the occasional young adult novel even though I feel a bit strange reading them. I have read some fantastic young adult apocalyptic fiction and some truly dreadful ones as well. I would not place The Girl Who Owned A City by OT Nelson into the truly dreadful category but I would place it very near it. I understand again that the main point of the novel was not to fashion an end of the world scenario but to have a teaching tool for adolescents.

The book is intended to make the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand understandable to children. I have even seen it taught in school in government classes to help school children think about how they would form a government of their own. I just found the whole book a bit heavy handed (and by a bit heavy handed I mean over the top) but OT wanted to make children understand and sometimes you need to be a bit heavy handed to accomplish this end. Most of the Objectivist philosophy teaching is done in the form of bed time stories that Lisa Nelson tells her little brother Todd. They are all about the same. Pretty much two points the American Government is bad because they take wealth from you and don’t give you the value of the things they take from you. The second seems to be a screed about depression. OT seems to think that people are unhappy because they are not earning their place in life. They would all be much better off if things were not just given to them. He thinks that if only people would work for a living they wouldn’t need to take any Prozac. I think it is worth noting now that OT Nelson has two children named Lisa and Todd. The whole book is written for his children and I bet they both think it’s pretty fantastic. For the rest of it just appears to be an attempt at indoctrination.

I was disappointed in the cleanliness and sterility of the story. Although all the adults had died in just a single month, no mention of corpses was made. No mention of clean up. No description of the symptoms. There should have been wreckage and piles of rotting corpses. It was just way too clean. I was also disappointed in the way Nelson chose to portay the state of minds of the children. They have lost everyone they know who is older then 12 yet they don’t mourn the dead. To me this book has more in common with Lord of the Flies. Both books have the element of rebuilding some type of society without adult help. I found the book to be just a bit boring. I recommend skipping The Girl Who Owned A City and reading instead Empty World by John Christopher or the Fire-Us Trilogy by Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher. Both of these are a far better read and are along the same plotline (a virus wipes out adults) although they leave out the society rebuilding element. There is also the four-book ‘Big Empty’ series by J.B. Stephens. These books deal with a plague called ‘Strain 7’. It is not fatal to just adults but to everyone. It does however feature a cast of seven teenagers and is written for an adolescent audience. Also if you prefer your books in visual form then the ‘Jeremiah’ series might be for you. This series takes place 15 years after a virus called ‘The Big Death’ kills everyone who had reached puberty. All of these books (or shows) are a far better option than O.T. Nelson’s book (that I barely made it through).

I thought I’d give this the same treatment I gave ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’. I figured I would search for a study guide and answer the questions myself. Keep in mind this is a kid’s book so teachers do ask their students to read and respond to it. Even though it has some strange ideas.

What happened to the students on Grand Ave?
There was a plague that killed all the adults. When the sickness was finished the only children left were 12 or under. They had to learn to survive on their own. Also they had to reinvent society. Lisa understood there was strength in numbers so she had all the children band together for mutual protection. In the end they realize they cannot keep themselves safe in the houses they once shared with their parents and move to Glenbard High School. With the help of the children she transforms the school into fortress and defends it from the gang who had made them abandon their homes.

Who are the main characters?
Lisa, the leader of the Grandville Avenue Children.
Todd, her younger brother.
Tom Logan, leader of the Chidester Avenue Gang and former friend of Lisa
There are many other characters but none are really main characters.

What role does Lisa, the protagonist, have?
She is the leader of the Grandville Children and eventually becomes the leader of The City of Glenbard (the high school). She is responsible for keeping order, providing protection and keeping them fed. Her role is much the same as the President. Her job is made easier because she is a divergent thinker and can think of solutions to problems that other children hadn’t even thought of. Food for example. How were they going to feed themselves now that the adults were all dead?

How have the children survived so far?
So far the children have survived by scavenging for food in the empty houses of dead adults nearby. When trouble arrives they hide in basements and wait for it to end. Then Lisa thinks to organize, look for food at farms, find food at a grocery store distribution center and finally move to a more defensible home with fortifications.

What are some tragic events that have happened to the children of Grand Avenue?
First they lost their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, and neighbors to the virus. Just as they are getting things sorted out rival gangs of children invade and take the food they have gathered and finally burn their homes forcing the children to relocate to ‘The City of Glenbard’. As a final insult their leader Lisa is shot and the city falls to Tom Logan.

And now on to The Happening. I viewed this movie with lowered expectations because I had only heard poor reviews of it. So with reviews of an hour and half of my life wasted I sat down for the viewing. I enjoyed it. Now don’t get me wrong it wasn’t what I’d call great or anything. It was predictable and didn’t have any plot twist device. Night chose to reveal the agent behind The Happening in the first twenty minutes and then let the viewing audience sit and think ‘really? really?’ I did enjoy all the mayhem and death, panic. That was fantastic. I only wish that Shyamalan hadn’t wussed out. Goddamn it I hate it when authors and directors do that. Crap! I’m an adult I can handle a horrible depressing ending. What he should have done was shorten the entire movie to no more then 20 minutes, used that as a prologue ands then should have extended the ending at least an hour. That was what I wanted. Total destruction on a world wide level. The same thing happened in 28 Day Later. At the end we find out it is only England. But wait there’s a sequel 28 Weeks Later. But damn it all! The movie pulls back from total destruction and shows Rage Zombies overtaking France as a tease at the very end. Come on! That’s what I paid to see in the first place. Now I bet they will try to swindle me again with 28 Months Later or some junk. That was exactly the feeling I had when I watched The Happening. I knew it could be so much better if Night had not pulled the punch on the movie.