cover image Until the Last Dog Dies

Until the Last Dog Dies

Robert Guffey. Night Shade, $15.99 trade paper (322p) ISBN 978-1-59780-918-4

Guffey’s sardonic, cleverly written comedic debut relies heavily on absurd synchronicity, bold characterization, and heavy irony to make its points about the apocalyptic nature of American humorlessness. However, his own humor and metahumor sometimes struggle to find their footing in a tale that evokes the work of Robert Anton Wilson with a hint of Flowers for Algernon. Elliot Greeley and his fellow second-tier L.A. comedians find their professional and personal lives devastated by a brain virus that causes people, including their audiences and some of their colleagues, to lose their senses of humor without realizing it. Guffey effectively displays humor’s use as a defense mechanism in the strong central portion of the novel, in which Elliot’s sarcasm is met sometimes with banter, inviting the reader into the fellowship of those who get the joke, and at other times with unnerving sincerity that is inherently funny in its incongruity. But Guffey settles in unevenly at first, leaving it unclear whether the reader is supposed to find the protagonist the butt of the joke. Terse final chapters that extend from the personal into the political, as Greeley’s own humor is affected, are disturbing but less sharp. (Nov.)