Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler

“It’s a hard world to be good in.”

With the title Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, how could I resist reading this novel by American author, former English professor, Victor Gischler? I read this wild roller-coaster ride of a novel in one sitting and enjoyed every page. Yes, I know, it won’t win the Pulitzer, but who cares?

The glorious front cover includes a quote from author James Rollins: “Part Christopher Moore, part Quentin Tarantino, Victor Gischler is a raving badass genius.” I’d say Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse is Duane Swierczynski on a trip through Mad-Max territory.

As the title suggests, this is a post-apocalypse novel set in the near future. The protagonist is Mortimer Tate, a 38-year-old insurance salesman. Correct that. Former insurance agent. And here’s how civilization ended:

No single thing had doomed Mortimer’s planet. Rather it had been a confluence of disasters. Some dramatic and sudden, others a slow silent decay.

The worldwide flu epidemic had come and gone with fewer deaths than predicted. Humanity emerged from that long winter and smiled nervously at one another. A sigh of relief, a bullet dodged.

That April the big one hit.

So long feared, it finally happened. The earth awoke, humped up its spine along the San Andreas. The destruction from L.A. to San Francisco defied comprehension. The earthquake sent rumbles across the Pacific, tsunamis pounding Asia. F.E.M.A. immediately declared its inadequacy and turned over operations to the military. The death toll numbered in the millions, and nothing–not food nor fuel–made it through West Coast seaports. The shortages were rapidly felt across the Midwest. Supermarkets emptied, and no trucks arrived to supply them.

Wall Street panicked.

Nine days later a Saudi terrorist detonated a nuclear bomb in a large tote bag on the steps of the Capitol building. Both houses of Congress were in session. The president and the vice president and most of the cabinet were obliterated.

The secretary of the interior was found and sworn in. This didn’t sit well with a four-star general who had other ideas. Civil war.

Economic spasms reached the European and Asian markets.

Israel dropped nukes on Cairo, Tehran and targets in Syria.

Pakistan and India went at it.

China and Russia went at it.

The world went at it.

It was pretty much downhill from there.

When the book begins, our hero Mortimer Tate is holed up in a well-stocked cabin on the top of a Tennessee mountain. He retreated to this remote site with a pile of supplies nine years ago as a way of refusing to sign his divorce papers. In the meantime, civilization went to hell in a handbasket, and since the portable batteries for his radio ran out the first year, Mortimer has no way of knowing what is going on in the world beyond his refuge. Mortimer is getting bored and lonely when 3 stragglers from the outside world invade his zone. As a result, Mortimer decides to head back, check out what is going on and find his wife, Anne.

Big mistake.

Mortimer discovers that the situation is worse, and far more dangerous, than he could have imagined. Some people have banded together to form roving tribes of marauders. Other people band together in isolated, bizarre utopian groups. Still others have turned to cannibalism. But there’s a burgeoning form of society in a chain of Joey Armageddon Sassy-A-Go-Go clubs strung out across America. Joey Armageddon’s oases of fun and pleasure are basically economic trade zones. The clubs feature home-made hooch (Freddy’s Piss Yellow, Freddy’s Piss Vinegar Vodka, Major Dundee’s Slow-Motion Gin), its own currency (Armageddon dollars–a piece of metal with a “primitive stamping” of a mushroom cloud on one side), and go-go girls. The club lights and music are powered by chained prisoners who are forced to pedal stationary bicycles that generate power (remember those Roman galley slaves? It’s the same sort of philosophy here). With rare goods to trade for Armageddon dollars, Mortimer becomes a card-carrying, platinum member of Joey Armageddon’s go-go clubs. 

Mortimer hooks up with a man named Bill– a latter-day cowboy, a man who dons a cowboy outfit, complete with a black cowboy hat, an ankle length duster, and a pair of pistols. Bill is one of the few good guys left:

“I don’t know why I did it at first,” admitted Bill. “I always liked westerns, John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, you know? Think about what a cowboy is, what he represents. The new order rolling across the prairie, right? Even when he was slaughtering buffalo and red indians, he still left civilization in his wake, towns and railroads and all that. I guess maybe I thought we needed cowboys again. Maybe not. Hell, I don’t know. Probably sounds stupid.”

Bill and Mortimer team up together to find Mortimer’s missing wife, Anne, who’s rumoured to be in Chattanooga. Once they leave the semi-safe Armageddon zone with its almost pathetic pretensions of civilization and order, Bill and Mortimer discover just how awful the world has become. It’s non-stop action all the way as the two men pick up stripper Sheila as the third member of the group, and together they travel to Chattanooga to find Anne. There’s no petrol available–although there are rumours that refineries may be working again, so Bill, Mortimer and Sheila find a range of ways (most of them dangerous and unwise) to travel to their chosen destination.  You couldn’t pay me to ride on the Muscle Express.

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse was bought on a whim, but this won’t be the only novel I read by this author. The novel is firmly rooted in pulp, and in spite of the fact that some of the action does stretch the imagination, this is a very visual tale. As I read, I found myself wondering just what would happen, what would become of ‘civilisation’ if the world ended? After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we got a glimpse of the potential problems the world would face with the collapse of civilisation: police shooting unarmed black Americans (and then hiding their actions), rumours of rape and murder, allegations of euthanasia of aged patients, animals abandoned, looting, & thousands of people stranded the Superdome. Even the governor made statements about the deputized troops sent to the area who would shoot and kill (with their “Locked and loaded M-16s”). What would happen to the world if a disaster such as Katrina were repeated but on a much broader, more destructive scale and then extended over years?

I read the novel, I decided that Gischler was probably spot on with some of his predictions.

This brings me to one of the complaints I read about the book. Some reviewers found it sexist. Women are bought and sold, kept in bikinis, and they also titillate the male customers of the Joey Armageddon’s Sassy-a-Go-Go chain. But since the novel is set post-Apocalypse, somehow I don’t think PC values would survive through the New World Order. Gischler seems to have a lot of fun imagining just what would survive the Apocalypse, and it is funny to note than humankind quickly resurrects strip joints, slavery and rotgut booze–after all, these are the rudimentary necessities, right? This is a savage, violent world in which people cling to each other to survive but the shared values of most of the loosely-formed groups are based on very practical principles. In Gischler’s world, there’s no time for sensitivity, but still time for humour. But lest readers should think that all the female characters exist as sex objects, here’s Tyler Kane:

A slender figure appeared atop the crates in front of them, looked down on the two passengers in the theater seats. The newcomer’s face wasn’t clear at first, a dark silhouette against the morning sun. Mortimer held up a hand, shaded his eyes to get a look. A woman.

“Don’t puke on my train,” she said.

Mortimer looked down, closed his eyes. It took too much energy to hold his head up. “Your train?”

“I’m Tyler Kane. I’m the train captain.”

She hopped down from the crates, and Mortimer got a better look at her. Athletically thin, hard body like a track star. She wore black leather pants and a matching jacket too light for the cold, a white turtleneck underneath. A nickel-plated revolver sprung from her waistband. Her hair was burgundy red, cut close on the sides and spiked on top. A black patch covered her left eye, and a thin white scar leaked from under the patch and ran straight down to the edge of her angular jawline. Her one eye was bright and blue as an arctic lake. She had the palest skin Mortimer had ever seen on someone still alive.

“You’re paying passengers, so you don’t have to do anything except stay out of the way,” Tyler said. “If we’re attacked, be prepared to repel boarders. If you vomit, stick your head over the side. Any questions?

And guess what? This is in production. Here’s a clip:

Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse

Can’t wait.

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20 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Gischler Victor

20 responses to “Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler

  1. Where is Bruce Willis? He needs to clean up this mess. 🙂
    It sounds funny and interesting to think about what Gischler imagined would be reconstructed at first. Bread and games, as the Romans would say. In French, prostitution is called “le plus vieux métier du monde”. Is there an equivalent in English?

    PS : about the representation of women. Open your eyes PC reviewers : Women ARE ALREADY treated as sexy objects since it is apparently necessary to show a naked woman in ads to sell yoghurt or coffee.

    • It’d be interesting to know how Gischler developed his ideas about how the future would look.

      Here the phrase is: The world’s oldest profession.

      Everything in Gischler’s world distilled down to the very basic elements. Blood, food, sex and booze with everyone fighting to stay alive. Obviously if an Armageddon took place, society would melt down rapidly (there’s that Katrina example). There’s one story from Katrina that girls stuck on a roof waiting for rescue were passed by for refusing to raise their t-shirts and show their breasts to the police who were there in a launch to perform rescue. When the girls refused to comply, the police passed them by.

      • You mean what real events led him into thinking that blood, food, sex and booze would be the basic needs? An acute knowledge of humanity?

        Is that story about Katrina true? If it is, it’s awful. (btw, seen from here, America looked as helpless as a poor developing country. So much for America’s legendary efficiency during crisis. )

        • I wonder if the author sat down and wrote down his thoughts about just what would happen and what would be left. Some of the stuff is really funny (the slaves on bikes for example).

          The story about Katrina comes from a tourist who said he saw it happen. Yes, I agree the footage looked like some 3rd world country. And I think that just gives us a taste of how bad it could be.

          • I wonder exactly the same thing about JK Rowling and the living paintings, the room on demand, the curses, the strange candies, the invisibility cloak…

  2. leroyhunter

    What a title! It’s almost unfair to call a book that.

    I’m reminded of the quote about “the three pillars of western civilisation” from Kate Atkinson’s book, wasn’t it?

    • I think you’re right about the phrase.

      You’d probably really like this book. You wouldn’t want a steady diet of Gischler novels. It would be the literary equivalent of consuming speed, but the book really was a great deal of fun.

  3. …The story about Katrina comes from a tourist who said he saw it happen.

    Pretty much the definition of ‘urban myth’ here, but never mind – I think I’ll read the book! I haven’t read a good post-apocalypse novel since my youthful sci-fi days!

    BTW, I loved Park Avenue Tramp!

    • Yes, you never know but then when you read the details of the euthanasia cases, the looting, the stranded tourists, and the police shootings, well, it just makes you think that civilisation as we know it has a very thin veneer. Strip away the politeness and it’s friggin’ UGLY underneath. I see this on a daily basis. Humans can be a shitty lot.

      I just ordered another Gischler novel. Think I’ll pass on his vampire one (hate that shit).

      • Not going for Vampire a-Go-Go??

        …civilisation as we know it has a very thin veneer. As an engineer, I’d have to say that the ‘thin veneer’ is maintained by massive investment in infrastructure, including my favorite, the efficient, sanitary collection and disposal of drainage! Without good drainage, barbarism looms!

        BTW, thanks to my pretty darn good local library, one of the world’s most civilized institutions – though you’d never know it from the nasty cranks who tend to work there – I will soon be moving on to plumb the depths of uncivilized dysfunction with the Gischler tale and The Demons (P & V trans.)

        • It took me some time to recover from The Demons and that building sense of dread. Wonderful book.

          Hope you like Gischler as much as I did.

          • Yeah, that was a fun read! Took me back to my pre-adolescent Cold War days of sci-fi and post nuclear desolation, but with humor and wit!

            Very clever use of the Oz imagery and conceit – the two kingpins of the world are little guys with humungus fronts, and they hate each other!

            Snappy dialog with tongue satirically in cheek. The functionaries of the two big guys all speak in excessively polite and formal tones. I loved the dialog of the two cannibal camp women, before Mortimer kills them: “You don’t like fermented blood, seriously?”

            Have you seen Zardoz? I think this is what that was trying for.

            • Yes I have seen Zardoz but it’s been a few years. I have only vague memories of it.

              I’m hoping you go for the Vampire book so that I can see a sense of how it compares.

  4. That really does have to be one of the finest titles ever written. Hopefully it’ll hit UK Kindle (I think it’s already on US Kindle).

    I note he’s also a comics’ writer. Somehow that doesn’t surprise.

  5. Also, from your Fun and Games review:

    “The mornings he felt good simply meant that he’d passed out before he could have any more to drink.”

    Great line.

  6. If anyone likes Swierczynski, then Gischler is a no-brainer choice. Both authors, as you point out, also write comics. In the Swierczynski I read, Fun and Games, you can almost see the ‘POW’ and ‘Zap’ balloons as the action takes place.

    • Fun and Games was fun, but I don’t think I’ll go on the other two in the Charlie Hardie trilogy, or is it not published yet? It was a wild ride, but it’s all based on a great-big-conspiracy-by-powerful-and-well-equipped-secret people…not my cup of tea. His writing is funny – the Mann babe, the whole idea of marginal film workers ‘moving up’ to the big time of directing reality, but not much underneath it. Go-Go Girls, dare I say it, actually had some deep themes about human society and the need for individuals to create themselves as characters, besides being really funny.

      As always, thanks for the tips.

      • The other two are due:

        Hell and Gone 10/11
        Point and Shoot 3/12

        I really liked Fun and Games. It fit the mood, so I’ll be reading the others. As you say, a totally different bag from Go Go Girls. The kinetic sense of Fun and Games reminded me of Gischler’s pace.

        What about those Hollywood Star Whackers then?

  7. I’m hoping you go for the Vampire book … Sorry, you go first. Vampire lit is not my thing, other than Stoker. I’ll also wait for your review of the film version of Go-Go Girls. For me, the pleasures of reading that book were very specific to reading. I have a hard time believing the film would be anything but a disappointment, but I have been wrong!

    As for Zardoz [http://wp.me/p3LmG-AS] I should have said that Go-Go Girls was what Zardoz was trying for.

    As always, thanks for the tips!

    • There’s been a glut of vampire stuff in the last few years, and it’s been a big turn off. I read some reviews of the Gischler vampire book that said it wasn’t entirely successful.

      I liked the Wizard of O analogy too. Very clever I thought.

      BTW, I won’t be able to resist the film version of GGG of the A.

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