Novel: Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

When I was the fiction editor at Futurismic, I was lucky to see several excellent submissions from Will McIntosh, and published a good number of them. He’s moved on to bigger and better things since then, including his debut novel Soft Apocalypse (2011), an inventive and compelling chronicle of the slow death of civilization. The viewpoint character is Jasper, an average joe college graduate who, as the book opens, struggles to get by with a tribe of like-minded friends, homeless on the streets of Savannah, Georgia. In a series of ever more desperate episodes, Jasper watches the modern world collapse around him, even as he struggles to cling to the last vestiges of normal life, sustained only by memories of better times, survival instincts, and the help of a string of friends and lovers.

Soft Apocalypse has the feel of a fix-up novel, many of its chapters telling self-contained, if connected, stories. But it does come together as a whole, each segment ramping up the bleak as successive layers of mundane modern life are peeled away, leaving the characters in an ever more challenging and alien new reality. The prose is immediate and accessible, the world-building increasingly inventive, and the ending simultaneously hopeful and creepy. In light of the relentlessly dark circumstances, Jasper did strike me as unrealistically preoccupied with romance; while it’s clearly an important thematic throughline, I found myself wanting to slap some sense into him now and then. But overall I found it an engrossing, effortless read – an apocalypse-in-progress novel that might make a good companion read to Darin Bradley’s more artful, if somewhat less colorful, Noise.

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