3 Stars - Recommended for readers familiar with genre
Scorch Atlas is not your typical post apocalyptic book. Yes, it deals with catastrophic events that render the world nearly uninhabitable. And yes, it chronicles the morbid lives of the people who have survived and the things they must go through to continue living. It is in the way author Blake Butler tells these stories that makes it atypical of its genre.
This is a collection of a short stories of worlds where entire towns are soaked and squishy with flood waters, where people are covered in an ever-growing coat of mold, where children kidnap and abuse their parents because the static from the television set instructs them to, where a father is haunted by the swelling ghost of his drowned child, and where one man helplessly witnesses his entire family being swallowed up in a mudslide.
Shorter short stories appear, as a sort of commercial break to the main events, detailing a multitude of plaques that have been visited upon the damaged and dying orb - skies that rain ice, gravel, glass, fecal matter, blood and gristle, ink...
A dark and hopeless read, Butler puts his characters through endless hells and creates a world that is devoid of time, place, and God. They are suspended in a soggy, festering globe infested by insects and disease, surrounded by rancid water, and forced to ingest splinters, fabric, and their own hair and nails to avoid starvation.
I think it is the mark of a good writer when, while reading his tales of doom and destruction, I find myself peering out of the window the ensure all is still well within my own little world.
This is not a book for everyone. Those familiar with post apocalyptic novels will have a greater appreciation for Butler's gorgeously packaged short story collection. While his prose is breathtaking, at times it requires some personal interpretation and mental decoding. The further into the book you read, the less clear and defined the stories seem to become, almost unraveling to a near-incoherent stream of consciousness at the very end. This does not take away from the pleasure (if you can rightly call it that) and experience of reading, but merely adds an additional layer to it all. There is a reason his book has evoked such strong and destructive behavior from past readers. This is one of the more beautiful videos:
In addition to his personal website, Butler blogs at HTMLGiant, and will be releasing There is No Year April 2011. I want to thank Blake and his publisher Featherproof for making this review copy available for me!