The Oblivion Society by Marcus Alexander Hart is a humorous, adventure-filled “end of the world as we know it” novel that is enjoyable to read despite its somewhat dated nature. It’s one of the types of Y2K disaster novels that were written prior to the year 2000 about various scenarios of the collapse of civilization. A large part of the fun of reading this book lies in the numerous pop culture references that abound. The cover art of one of the main characters, the redhead Vivian Grey (aka “Vivian Oblivion”), complete with torn black cocktail dress and mutated bat wings on her back, riding on a bomb like Slim Pickens in the movie Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Love the Bomb, is alluring and in itself the reason for at least one of the stars I give this book. I am a sucker for comic-book style graphics; what can I say?
However, I didn’t like everything about The Oblivion Society. I was bothered a bit at first by such things as the characterization of the President of the United States as a Bill Clinton-esque lecherous good-ol’-boy, and that the end of the world is brought about by an accidental nuclear war caused resulting from a security breach when he sneaks in an intern (with a “blue dress” on, of course, a la Monica) through a fence, alarms sound, and he asks for the defense systems to be shut down. Russia and China notice via their satellites that we’ve let down our defenses, and a harmless scientific rocket that’s being launched gets mistaken for a nuclear one. Everyone launches their weapons at virtually the same time, and what were once cities become radioactive craters.
Strange mutated creatures roam the land, and most of humanity is wiped out. Umpteen million references to Prince’s song “1999” also bugged me, though I actually like the song.
But the key to getting into The Oblivion Society, or any book that involves an apocalypse that’s supposed to occur in the near future but at a date which has come and gone, is to ignore any dated references, no matter how hard it may be - or how annoying they might be. Stick your fingers in your ears, if need be, and repeat “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” over and over again to drown out your own objections based on logic and the impossibility of the timeframe. I was able to do this, more or less; if you can do the same, and take the rest of this novel on its own merits, it’s a pretty good read, albeit in a comic-book sort of way (which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it, I suppose).
Who are the survivors, and why? There’s the aforementioned Vivian and her brother, Bobby. He is a portly computer nerd who rooms with another main character, Erik, who is reed-thin and has a crush on Vivian. Also, there’s Sherri “I am not a goth. I am an individual” Becequerel, or “Scary Sherri,” a chain-smoker who has a thing for Erik. Last but not least, there’s Trent, a white wannabe black gangsta rapper kind of guy who thinks he’s wanted by all the females and who wants sex 24/7. They all lived in Stillwater, Florida, when the bombs went off, and survived in part because they were underground, in a van, or a makeout submarine at a local bar. Also, they breathed in a pink-tinged atmosphere after the bombs went off partially composed of a nasty pink red tide of the kind that periodically hits Florida’s beaches. The red algae is not affected by radiation, which is likely the only reason these people manage to survive.
I could point to the fact that there’s no way possible for them to live for very long at all under such conditions, that the fallout would kill them slowly and painfully, that even if they somehow could avoid the fallout, they’d die of contaminated food and water, etc., etc., etc. - also that the radiation that created the Incredible Hulk and Spider-man would, if it happened in the real world, have killed them, and on and on ad nauseum. But the writing style is very good. There is a lot of action in it, and the characters are interesting, though mostly uni-dimensional. The independent press that published The Oblivion Society, Permuted Press, is located in Mena, Arkansas, close to where I live in Fort Smith. They’ve also published another book which I read and reviewed here that has its merits but which I didn’t like as well as this one, John Dies At the End, by David Wong. He coincidently (?) contributes the introduction to The Oblivion Society.
Many independently published books don’t get much attention or reviewed very widely compared to mass market books published by huge corporations. They often publish very good books, though, that are deserving of a wider audience. The Oblivion Society is one such book. Sure, the references are dated, but it’s kind of fun seeing how many you can recognize and spot. I recommend this book. Support our country’s independent publishers and get a few kicks from checking out a pretty cool book, as well.