What would happen if the majority of the world was liquefied by flying monkeys? Well, if you read Apocalypticon by Clayton Smith, you can find out!
Apocalypticon follows the story of two men, Ben and Patrick, who are determined to leave their boring, apocalypse-driven lives in Chicago and trek to Disneyworld. Because, why not?
Ben is kind of a grump, but an entertaining grump, while Patrick is full of life and can find a joke in everything and anything, despite losing both his wife and daughter to “M-Day.”
I asked Clayton if he had to choose any actors to portray Ben and Patrick in the inevitable movie version of his novel, who would they be? He said Jake Johnson for Ben and Jim Parsons for Patrick. I think that fits really well as you get to know their personalities.
If you’re from Chicago or lived there for a significant amount of time, you will really connect with this story, as I did. I love watching or reading things set in my home territory because I feel like I’m in on the joke. All the landmarks are there and notably used. I love imagining my city in ruins. (Does that make me super weird and creepy? Perhaps.) Even better, Patrick and Ben make their way to St. Louis, my hometown, and I was extremely giddy as I read their journey through the city and especially the abandoned St. Louis Cardinals Ballpark to find Yadier Molina’s baseball jersey. Yadi! I just grin like an idiot, saying to myself, “Oh yeah totally. I know exactly what this is.”
My only issue is that sometimes I found myself yelling at Patrick, along with Ben, to stop making a joke out of everything. But you realize that everyone copes with tragedy differently and Patrick has that Chandler/Xander way of dealing with things. (Yeah, I’m gonna make random pop culture references too since this book was FILLED with them!) Plus, without their banter and plethora of fun references, this story would be insanely stressful and depressing.
Clayton does a great job of mixing up the eerie, abandoned feeling of the world with much humor, along with a cast of strange, horrifying, and pathetic leftover people they meet along the way. From the evil train attendants to the 50s-style family in complete denial of the apocalypse (my favorite chapter) to a band of well-meaning religious folk, there’s no shortage of interesting characters. You may only spend a short time with some of them, but they all add a fun element to the journey.
And this story truly was a journey from start to finish. It was bittersweet, but I can’t think of any other way it should have ended.