Keyhole Factory

William Gillespie. Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-59376-446-3
To repurpose T.S. Eliot, this is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but with an experimental novel about our dénouement. In Gillespie’s imaginative scenario, a manmade plague called Pandora is deliberately unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace. Through the clever use of ever-changing typographical layouts, we live through the spread of the epidemic and are horrified as it quickly devastates mankind, causing a breakdown in law and order and communications. Playing like a biowarfare version of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, with death substituting for sex, we meet an interconnected cross-section of humanity, including a poet astronaut on his way back to a changed Earth after testing a planet-killing weapon in deep space; a female virologist who works at the secret underground lab where the weaponized virus was created; Seattle newlyweds, possibly “the last couple to get married,” fleeing the clogged city in search of sanctuary; a serial killer who preys upon the various colonies of survivors; and a pirate radio disk jockey who broadcasts her harrowing experiences even though there may no longer be anyone alive to hear them. Gillespie (The Story That Teaches You How to Write It) has a keen satiric mind: the virus is released at an Arms Contractors Ball where men wear missile codpieces and women bullet bras. And although it has become fashionable in recent years for literary authors to take on the apocalypse, you would have to go back to Denis Johnson’s Fiskadoro to find such a purely poetic take on the unthinkable. Agent: Gary Heidt, Signature Literary Agency. (Nov. 13)
Reviewed on: 09/24/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
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Book - 417 pages - 978-1-59376-495-1
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