Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Book Review: The Last Weekend
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of zombie lit that actually focuses more on the lit than the zombie
Publisher: PS Publishing
Released: March 2014 (overseas)
How do you become a better writer? Apparently, you drink like a fish, sleep with a lot of chicks while your heart desires the one you can no longer have, develop a strong sense of self-loathing, and pray for a zombie apocalypse. That's what Nick Mamatas' The Last Weekend really boils down to.
A bit of a high-brower, this zombie novel is less about the zombies and more about the writer who's writing it.
Our protagonist, Vasilas "Billy" Kostopolis, is a bit of an introvert and a bar dweller in the before AND after times. Pre-apocalypse, he went out to observe and note and digest content for his stories. And though he wrote, he wasn't incredibly successful at it. After the world changed, the bars were where he went to kill time till the next call came in to protect the living and prepare the recently dead for eternal rest. Because in the after times, our boy Billy is what you called a "driller", summoned to the bedside of the dying and very-recently-dead to push a drill bit deep into their brains before they had a chance to reanimate.
Billy seems to have fun waving his education in all of our faces and spends a lot of time knocking around town, less concerned with the reanimated and more interested in making a nuisance of himself among the lady-kinds, gathering up experiences which are ultimately being relayed to us via his book. This book.
It's all incredibly meta. And not at all what I expected.
Honestly, I don't understand how Mamatas expected us to take the zombie apocalypse seriously when his own protagonist claims to remember the details of 9/11 better than the day the dead started to rise.
I mean, what're the chances that you'd be the dude who actually sleeps through the first few days of the apocalypse? Hungover and heart-broken, Billy awakens to his apartment door being beaten down by soldiers, him and everyone else in town forced to evacuate.
And to make it even more surreal, I'm not sure these are the types of things I would concern myself with, but when initially coming to terms with the whole "the dead are up and walking around" thing, Billy actually contemplates what it will mean to be a writer now that all of your competition is dead, not to mention all the other people like... oh you know... agents and bookstores and an audience to sell to.
He also ponders Yvette, his before-the-shit-hit-the-fan love, and Alexia, his current and floundering deep-in-the-shit love. He even has the gall to ponder his lack of romantic bedroom moves. Le sigh. The cares and concerns of a brain-driller during these strange, trying times.
For the fun of it, Mamatas throws in a bit of secret city conspiracy stuff, in which our protag and his friends smoothly find themselves in the midst of, and then.... well, just when it feels like the book might start to really go somewhere, it all sort of fizzles out.
And not to nitpick, but where did the title The Last Weekend come from? Unless I missed it completely, I'm not getting why it's the last weekend.
The whole zombie piece was treated with no more attention than a minor rodent infestation. Just one more hassle for the humans to have to deal with. Society seems intent to carry on regardless. Cell phones and the internet still function, for the most part. Twenty-somethings still find reasons to party. The beer still flows at the pubs. It was all a little too "struggling writer and woe-is-me"for my tastes. And it was a bit painful to read at times. I mean, I'm all for smart literature. But this was achingly-aware-of-itself smart literature (so many eye rolls, you guys) and the introverted tendencies of our guy Billy kept us so far removed from everything that he made it really difficult to empathize with the characters.
Overall, I found The Last Weekend to be lacking - a bit of a non-event, a fumbling bumbling addition to what is becoming an increasingly impressive sub-genre of apocalyptic fiction. While I can appreciate Mamatas' decision to separate himself from the pack, I don't think this book achieved what he set out to accomplish.