Victor Gischler may as well have hit me over the head a placard that says, “The End is Near.” because of his barebones, plausible page and a half summation of the fall of modern civilization in his new book, Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. Hitting shelves in July, this book is one-part survivalist fiction, one-part post-modern meta-fictional homage to tons of post-apocalyptical stories from our popular culture, and one-part satirical lament of the American addiction to indulgences, creature comforts, and capitalism.
Gischler’s fifth novel is a robust cocktail certainly—think Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with the jovial tone of Lethal Weapon with a surreal familiarity to French philosopher Voltaire’s novella, Candide, ou l'Optimisme, and Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon—the first post-apocalyptical novel of the nuclear age—written nearly 50 years ago! Gischler’s Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse is all of these things and gasoline—lots of gasoline—oh, and strippers and cannibals…lots of strippers and cannibals metaphorically juggling chainsaws covered with fire, back and forth, over the aforementioned gasoline.
Mortimer Tate was smart—he made it out before everything went down the crapper; this is the tale of him “coming back down the mountain” after a number of years in seclusion, away from all the events that ended civilization. His descent quickly becomes more of a meteoric snow-balling with depictions of killing his first human being; being abused by a very large man wearing a bear-skin; the introduction of his semi-sidekick, “Wild Bill”; and, of course, who can forget to mention Joey Armageddon’s Sassy-a-Go-Go—the last bastion of civilization, a post-apocalyptic cross between a modern gentleman’s “steakhouse” outside of Reno, Nevada, and a 19th century logging community saloon and trading post…franchised out like Hooters with a colorful pink logo and it’s own currency. Tate has a solid moment of good fortune—if you can have such a thing after an apocalypse—he becomes a “Platinum Member” of Joey Armageddon’s establishment. Reflective during his years of seclusion, Tate begins to try to seek out pieces of his past life; primarily, his estranged wife, Anne, who plays the role of Lady Cunégonde to Tate’s Candide (sort of…). Without spoiling much more, Tate and Bill set out with third character (who I won’t go into because she has a transformative role in the book) to find their places in this ravenously desolate world set along the Appalachian Mountain Range. Along the way, they meet up with a second, just-as-deadly female companion, as the foursome heads to the Lost City of Atlanta to save Anne from the clutches of the Red Czar, the mysterious leader of a band of men called the Red Stripes. Of course, wholesale bedlam then ensues…
Gischler’s tone is wry with wit but sensible enough to be earnest and, at times, unabashedly horrific. Readers will wade into this murky gem quickly; Gischler’s minimalist substance and structure feels almost cinematic—indulging the reader with the zero-to-sixty rawness of a wide-open 6.5 Liter V-8. And then—almost as if to set a hook and reel the reader back in—Gischler will put his other foot down; as he jars the reader back into Tate’s innocent introspection and depth or as he uses a well placed sliver of a meta-reference to some pop-culture something without overburdening the source. Take your pick of any of the favorites—Snake Plissken makes a hallucinatory cameo in a passage and Logan’s Run finds its way into the periphery; these “easy Easter Eggs” are dreamy little fairy tales in juxtapose to the grittiness of Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. If the movie references don’t get you going, the references to actual people or places will; specifically, the guide who bares an eerie resemblance to Ted Turner or the post-apocalyptic triumph of the Jack Daniels distillery.
Similar to last week’s review of Duane Swierczynski’s Severance Package, if Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse is any indication of what Victor Gischler is capable of—Punisher MAX fans will be more than satisfied in the months to come. Make an effort to hit a book store on July 8th and grab a copy of this book; hell, maybe even head into a strip club and order a neat shot of Jack Daniels for atmosphere—you’ll shudder at the starkness and chortle with laughter at the same time—this is one hellishly good read.