PostApoc, Liz Worth, 184 pgs, Now or Never Publishing, www.nonpublishing.com, $19.95
Liz Worth has created a funny sort of End of Days scenario in PostApoc, her debut novel. Though some combination of drought and antibiotic-resistant microbes has thinned out populations and food stores and loosed the occasional pack of wild dogs, there are happily no zombies or murderous, rape-y warlords to contend with, and to those with a little gumption, certain big city amenities like cafes, restaurants and rock shows can still be had.
Lonely Ang (short for “angst”, the reader wonders?) negotiates this semi-apocalyptic Toronto amidst a mutating band of similarly bereft, death-obsessed, generally interchangeable former cool kids who spend their days foraging for food, drugs, and the occasional grab of de-sexualized human contact. But PostApoc’s main – almost sole — preoccupation is with Ang’s febrile, diaristic musings; apocalypse or no, she finds no shortage of romance in despair, and plenty of seduction in surrender.
Worth cut her teeth as a poet and music writer, and seems reluctant here to fully abandon either camp. PostApoc often reads less like a traditional novel than an extended prose poem, a literary transcription of a Megadeth/Morrissey collaboration, or an allegorical exposé of urban homelessness. There is very little in the way of a narrative engine. Her characters don’t build things, make discoveries, or dream big go-getting dreams of fixing The Man’s mistakes.
In Worth’s one concession to linearity, Ang manifests a slow, drug and privation-induced descent into incipient insanity and Cronenberg-ian body horror. But beyond that, the chapters could be reshuffled – maybe in a Beat-style cut-up of which Worth might even approve – with little loss in coherency or flow. In so richly and effectively drawing these static, joyless lives, Worth has produced a largely static, joyless read.
Worth is a big talent who here serves up a heap of great writing in service principally to itself. This is not a criticism; one woman’s form is another woman’s straightjacket. But readers should note well the dedication – “for nightmares” – and know to expect more A Season in Hell than The Walking Dead. (Paul Duder)