Science fiction and fantasy
Apocalypse Now Now
by Charlie Human
Baxter is cynical, pragmatic, and unkind, so at first he doesn't seem like the type of character it would be fun to read about. However, there's a vivid and gruesome style to his thoughts that makes seeing things from his point of view compelling and highly amusing. At the same time he's probably a sociopath, he's mean to his autistic younger brother Rafe, and he's seeing a psychiatrist about his delusions. There's a serial killer loose who carves an eye into victims' foreheads, and some evidence points to this killer being Baxter himself.
Baxter's girlfriend Esme is his saving grace, the one person apart from himself who he seems to care about. When she goes missing he drops everything to look for her, enlisting the help of a supernatural bounty hunter called Ronin. Ronin is a hairy gun-toting wild card with bad habits and a turbulent history, and Baxter has no reason to trust him. Ronin might be the only person who can help, but from the moment they meet, Baxter's life takes a turn for the weird. And things keep getting stranger with every plot twist.
Although Baxter is sixteen, Apocalypse Now Now is a long way from a typical young adult book. It's bloodsoaked and gruesome, and full of drugs and all manner of horrors. There's a Flesh Palace that's even worse than the name suggests.
I wasn't familiar with the mythology based on giant crows, warring mantis and octopus gods, and a menagerie of other strange creatures, so this aspect made the events all the more unexpected. This is a novel that misdirects with gusto, and Charlie Human revels in making each chapter stranger than the last. Baxter's dry cleverness has a great foil in Ronin's mystical hobo ninja. If you have the stomach for it, it's a riot.
27th October 2015
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Review © Ros Jackson