I picked up my copy of Apocalypicon by Clayton Smith at Chi-Fi this year where I had the opportunity to bond with Clayton over our shared love of Disney. You see Apocalypticon takes places in the United States in a world similar to The Walking Dead and chronicles the journey of 2 best friends as they travel from Chicago to the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World. I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for things connected to Disney. I worked at a Disney Store for 2 years before is was abruptly closed with little notice. I’ve been to WDW 4 times and it truly is magically. So I have a soft spot for things connected to Mickey. And I guess, if the world was ending, why not head to the Happiest Place on Earth, right?
I struggled with Apocalypticon. I struggled with the plot, the characters, and as I write this post, I have to look at the cover of the book just to spell the name of the novel. It read like a bad buddy cop movie with not enough history given about the two main characters, Ben and Pat, to understand how they hooked up and why they stay together. They had inside jokes that I didn’t understand. And for most of the book, they seem to dislike each other and I wondered why they continued to stay together.
The passage of time or rather how quickly Ben and Pat travelled bothered me as well. The first part of the journey made sense as a train travels relatively quickly. However, once Ben and Pat moved to the river and then to walking, they seems to move awfully quick between adventures. It seemed to take them only a day to cross hundreds of miles. And the villain of the novel, appears briefly at the start, disappears and miraculously is back on the their tails and travels at astounding speed on foot as well.
So why did I keep reading? Pat had some really touching moments. A note from his young daughter, who died during the event that caused the apocalypse, was driving him to get to Walt Disney World. Smith craftily brings out the note, during Pat’s most trying moments and I would see a glimmer of hope and humanity. Each time I was ready to put the book down and abandon it, the note would get whipped out, my heart would ache and I would continue reading. Smith waits to reveal what was in the note, and I had to know what was in the note!
There were some moments that made me laugh, too. About half way through the book, Ben and Pat are scavenging through cars trying to find supplies. They have a conversation about a scene from The Walking Dead that was very similar to their current situation.
“There was this one episode, I think it was season 2, when they needed medical supplies, so they dug through all the abandoned card on the highway. Just like we’re doing. Except you know what they found? … Everything. … They got everything. And me? I got this bag of plastic toothpicks,” he [Pat] said, holding it up.
Ben shrugged. “Fiction is bullshit. What can you do?”
“My addiction to movies and television has left me entirely unprepared for the harsh realities of post-apocalyptic life.”
Overall, I wasn’t a fan of Apocalypticon by Clayton Smith. The pacing was off and the story takes a lot of common zombie and apocalyptic tropes and throws them together. For me, there wasn’t any thing new and ground breaking. I only read to the end because I wanted to know what was in the note driving Pat to get to Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, Apocalypticon by Clayton Smith gets a thumbs down.