Caveat

With regards the reviews I write, I feel it is necessary to provide this caveat.
The initial section right up to the button that opens the full synopsis is the teaser where I try to give a look into the book without revealing too much.

The section within the button is a full synopsis. No detail will be hidden at all.

Be warned!
The final section (Food for thought) is a series of thoughts on the book. This is a personal take on the book and does mention important parts of the books. It should be considered as much of a spoiler as the previous section!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Book Review: Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw - 4thwallfly

Welcome to Fly on the 4th Wall.
The first two books I have reviewed so far have been military science fiction books. This one is a little different.
In this review, we'll be looking at:
Jam - Yahtzee Croshaw
Cover art copyright of Tina Alessi

Jam is a tongue-in-cheek take on the classic apocalypse stories. We've seen volcanoes, storms, earthquakes, diseases, zombies and even aliens as the backdrop of apocalypse movies. On some rare occasions we've even seen stories which feature most if not all of those together. This is instead the story of the end of the world by jam. Why jam? You might ask, well the counter argument goes a little something like this:
Why not? 
It's ludicrous and that's probably why it works so well. This is a well written slapstick comedy that entertains despite the B-movie-esque plot.

'We were prepared for an earthquake. We had a flood plan in place. We could even have dealt with zombies. Probably. But no one expected the end to be quite so ... sticky ... or strawberry scented.' - Jam, Yahtzee Croshaw

This is a story of the end of Australia in the form of horrifying, semi-sentient jam. It is one of those few books that really is what it says on the tin. Jam is about jam, lots of it. A group of societal 'anomalies' group together in the face of the apocalypse that had struck somewhere around rush hour in Brisbane. This is a dark comedy, the future of mankind isn't all that promising given this particular group, and none of them are well equipped to deal with this change in their lives (regardless of how much some of them may have wanted it).

The book is written from Travis's point of view, an unemployed young man in his twenties who suddenly finds himself thrust into a world which he is ill-prepared to deal with. Fortuantely, he is not alone in this predicament as he finds himself grouping up with other no-hopers. The plan? To somehow either escape from jam-infested Brisbane or be rescued. The writing style is casual and almost silly, but that's part of what brings in the humour. This isn't a story of a group of tough and intelligent survivors thriving in the post-apocalyptic world, this is instead the story of a group of misfits trying their level best to survive. The only problem is that, being who they are, their level best might not see them through.
This is not drama, this is comedy.

To all intents and purposes, the pre-jam world is Earth as we know it. The setting is the present day and besides the jam there is nothing actually unusual about the story's setting. In other words, prime material for a disaster. The book's chapters are organised by the passage of time, each referring to the number of days since the start of the jam's arrival. 


Click below for the full synopsis (click to open/close):




Food for thought:

This is not the book you expect to read. It sounds and reads like a B-movie script. Monstrous apocalyptic disaster in the form of an aggressive and hungry strawberry jam. The book feels disjointed at times and the Australian slang can be a little off-setting, but this is nonetheless a great tongue-in-cheek take on the disaster genre. We've all seen films or read books about the apocalypse which always have a very similar take. There's a great big disaster, the survivors must somehow rebuild human society, there's usually some great sense of struggling against the environment to maintain the standard of living that mankind has grown used to.

But this is not the story of survivors struggling ahead and coming out on top in the face of this disaster. This is a story that does the exact opposite. In only a few days the surviving inhabitants have developed their own utterly insane cultures that do not represent any attempt to rebuilt the old culture. The survivors are not hardy and stalwart people who had planned ahead or displayed much in the way of forward-thinking. These are everyday slackers and overly keen office workers who come to terms with their post-apocalyptic world by plunging headlong into insanity.

It pokes fun at the genre by deliberately not fulfilling our expectations. We know that X and Y are involved in the jam's appearance. After all, the arrival of a US helicopter in Australia and all the clues towards HEPL are hardly subtle. But, Jam doesn't reveal some sinister overarching plot. There's no great evil or puppetmaster pulling strings. The entire thing is one enormous accident. An accident spawned from an attempt to ensure that such a thing never actually occured. I'm sure the plastic men would appreciate the irony.

What's also interesting is the ending. This assumption that the world moves on with minimal fuss. Yes, there was a jam attack on Australia. Yes, it was started by America and deliberately suppressed. A few weeks later there is only mention of giving testimony against the government, but no real implication of future change or punishment and already the newspapers are pointing out that the now jam-free Australia is simply a new market to develop, another economic zone experiencing a boom as interest in tourism grows. There's no intimation that the rest of the world really cared for Australia's plight but was more interested in the opportunities and attractions of the post jam world!