Go-go girls of the apocalypse by Victor Gischler


When the end comes, chances are it’s going to be a series of events; no one thing is quite enough to destroy the structure of society completely. The collapse of the world as we know it today will bring about a great many changes, and here the possibilities are wide enough to boggle even the wildest of science fiction authors. Go-go Girls of the Apocalypse doesn’t stint in either category.

Mortimer Tate has spent the last nine years holed up on his own in a cabin/cave well hidden in a state park. He didn’t intend to stay quite that long—just long enough for his almost but not quite ex-wife to give up hunting for him in order to get his signature on the divorce papers. Instead, the Earth-destroying apocalypse came, a combination of natural and man-made disasters. “The Big One” hit the West Coast of the United States, producing the expected destruction to the land and tsunamis to the sea; the combined effects of the earthquake cut off the seaports on the West Coast, and with them much of the supplies shipped through these ports: food, gasoline, machine parts, you name it. The resulting panic caused Wall Street to crash, taking down much of the world economic activity with it. To cap things off, a Saudi terrorist detonated a powerful bomb on the steps of the Federal Capitol Building in Washington, taking out the President, his cabinet and most of the House and Senate. The Secretary of the Interior, as the highest ranking official left, is sworn in…which doesn’t sit too well with a four-star general. Civil war ensues in the U.S. and unrest spreads to the rest of the world…

Fortunately, Tate had recognized the seeds of the world society’s destruction for what they were, and maxes out three credit cards in the course of supplying his hideout. He does run out of a few things, not realizing he’s going to be spending nine years in the place—the coffee and batteries run out in the first year—but he is left with a goodly supply of first aid equipment and that best of trading goods in a lawless world: liquor. And lots of it.

He realizes the time has come for him to rejoin what remains of the rest of the world when, in his ninth winter in the hidey hole, three men stumble across his cabin. He kills them in self-defense but realizes where some have come, more may follow, and he packs up a sled load of supplies he thinks likely to have trade value or be in short supply in the outside world and heads down the mountain before the snow melts enough to make sledging difficult. He emerges into a world not only not quite what he was expecting but not entirely like that the readers of more conventional post-apocalypse literature may be expecting.

The standard things have happened, resulting from the collapse of what most readers would consider ‘society’, not to mention law-abiding behavior. With no gasoline, cars are useless, as are any other transport vehicles which similarly use petroleum products. With mass starvation rampant in the first years, post-collapse, the majority of edible animals have been eaten, meaning there are no longer any horses, mules, oxen, donkeys, llamas or any of the other animals used for draft purposes, pre-apocalypse. With the death or flight of many technicians from this crumbled culture, not to mention the physical damage resulting from the earthquake, power generating facilities and the grid to ‘transport’ electricity’ have vanished too. It’s people power or nothing. With the collapse of the world banking system, printed paper money is useless. When the factories closed, many consumer goods, from clothes to liquor, washing machines to train couplings, have long been used up or disintegrated from lack of maintenance.

People being what they are, some things have been reinstated. Liquor, for starters; there’s a mysterious “Freddie” who produces several lines of whimsically named alcohols, from wine to vodka, though distribution is something of an issue. Or rather, ensuring that enough of it gets to its final destination after the decimations of brigands en route. Perhaps most importantly, there is a chain of “Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go” franchises, which combine strip club, bar, restaurant and hotel rooms after a fashion; Motel 6 has nothing to fear from these, but in a world devoid of any of the comforts available today, even Freddie’s Panther Piss and hot running water begins to look pretty good. Not to mention the fact that the guards are armed more heavily than your average Marine: these venues are an oasis of safety compared to the outside world.

Tate’s stockpile brings him 7,000 “Armageddon dollars” and a lifetime platinum membership in the Joey Armageddon chain. With this money and membership, and two companions, Buffalo Bill who is at heart a cowboy and Sheila who was only a child when the apocalypse came and thus knows no other world than the present one, Tate sets off to find his wife, purported to be at a branch of Joey Armageddon’s Sassy A-Go-Go in Atlanta. They find, not a wife who needs the protection of her Man, but rather a woman who’s quite happy on her own after nine years and doesn’t even want divorce papers any more. Who needs them now?

…and they find a battle with the mysterious Czar. The book has a happy ending of sorts, in that the three main characters survive, and as the book ends, they’re planning a trip down to the coffee-producing regions of South America to see what they can bring back. Coffee’s at $300 a pound with the collapse of international commerce, and Hawaii quite out of reach with the collapse of mechanized transport as we know it today, so travelling hundreds of miles through war torn countries isn’t quite as implausible as one might think.

No soothing post-apocalypse book, this. Perhaps the fact that Mort spends a fair bit of time vomiting in reaction to the horrors he’s seen may serve as a warning for the queasier readers out there. The collapse of a society as a result of a multi-part apocalypse will bring about a great many unpleasant things. Substantial increases in violence, and that often of the sick-making variety, is a more than plausible result of the removal of law and order as we regard it here and now. Using human power to generate electricity is not unreasonable. Definitely an adult post-apocalypse tale, given the nature of the pre-eminent businesses; somehow it doesn’t surprise me that the two most successful enterprises, post-apocalypse, would be strip clubs and liquor distilleries; Jack Daniels is one of the few businesses that survives the apocalypse intact.

What to read next? Oddly, I’d suggest Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide ‘trilogy’, if you liked the irreverent nature of this one, though the humor is a bit different. If you didn’t like that lampooning tone, try one of the more serious Post-Apocalypse Works, such as Margaret Atwood’s books Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale.

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