It’s the 2020 Apocalypse and Sophie Cohen, former social worker turned neighborly drug dealer, must keep her family alive amid grueling and sometimes strangely amusing end of the world issues: starvation, earthquakes, plagues, gang violence and alas more starvation. She will be forced to investigate a serial killing and then, as if that isn’t enough, needs to take down the sinister emerging power structure, all-the-while learning to use a pizza box solar oven, bond with her chickens and learn to shoot a Ruger 9MM.
By now, you’ll know I’m a bit sick of the same old apocalypse stories, and am actively looking for something different. I thouhgt I had it in Etiquette for an Apocalypse – the blurb I tracked down suggested it was primarily a murder mystery set in a post-apocalyptic world, which I was really into. However, half way through the book, that ceased to be the focus, and the plot went elsewhere. I was sort of disappointed by this – not that the actual plot wasn’t fun and entertaining, because it really, really was, but because I had been hoping for something else. (By the way, someone write a good, well-written and well-characterised post-apocalyptic murder mystery, and I will read the SHIT out of it).
Ok, so that noted, let’s talk about everything else. I loved Etiquette for an Apocalypse. I loved it a lot. I loved it with almost the same intensity I love shoes. Everything about it – the humour, the occasional lapses into script-style narrative, the first-person narrator being a middle-aged ex-social worker, her obsession with foods she can never eat again – was wonderful, a fresh attitude to post-apocalyptic writing. Etiquette for an Apocalypse manages to portray the grim realities of life post-apocalypse whilst still being fun to read – and quite funny, too. It’s not going to be for everyone, but in my experience books that try to be for everyone often end up being for no-one. Etiquette for an Apocalypse does some things with narrative structure and voice that a lot of people won’t have seen in this sort of novel before – I think they make the book stronger, but more literarily conservative types could find them off-putting.
There are some minor problems – the first chapters are pretty seriously info-dumpy, and it’s purely because the information is actually interesting that Etiquette for an Apocalypse manages to get away with it. However, overall it’s an innovative, interesting book that deserves to be very successful.
For that reason, it gets the rare….