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
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:
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):
Jam starts without any build up whatsoever and pushes the reader right into the thick of it, pun intended. Travis wakes up in his shared apartment only to discover the electricity isn't working and his friend Frank informs him the water wasn't working. The morning has just dawned and Frank tells Travis he was off to the gym. Travis decides to come along with Frank in order to find breakfast. Frank slides down the apartment building's banisters only to land straight into three feet of jam which had flooded the stairwell. Frank is eaten alive, or dissolved alive (more accurately) by the jam, leaving Travis in a state of shock. Looking out from his window, Travis discovers the jam has covered as far as he can see in what was once busy Brisbane.
Travis goes to his neighbour's flat, only to find that his neighbour (Tim) was equally clueless about the jam. Tim isn't at all affected by Frank's death and instead begins experimenting with the jam, discovering it consumed the rubber but not the plastic of his thong (slippers). Tim reveals that he considered the jampocalypse to be a wonderful thing, since this now means he, being a survivor by reason of his unemployment, has been more successful than the people caught in the rush hour jam (pun intended). They go on to discover another survivor, a woman named Angela. In their attempt to get across to Angela, Tim and Travis discover that the jam consumes cotton and Tim earns himself a concussion for his trouble. After a modicum of screaming and panic involved in actually crossing the gap between buildings, Tim and Travis find themselves on Angela's side of the apartment block.
Travis goes on to check on Don Sunderland's flat, a man they'd visited for his housewarming party, because Don Sunderland's flat had access to a view of the city. Travis breaks in, pleased with his continuing adaption to the post-crisis world, only to be confronted by Don Sunderland armed with a baseball bat. Don Sunderland is another survivor evidentally unaware of the sticky situation they are in (pun definitely intended). Don Sunderland assumes at first that Travis is a thief and his protestations about the jam merely a sign of an overdose on drugs. Eventually, Tim and Angela congregate outside Don Sunderland's flat. Angela has begun to document and film the entire event from a hand-held camcorder.
Of the group, Tim is hopelessly optimistic about their future and happy with it. Travis goes along with most of what Tim says but otherwise is somewhat quiet, happy to let the others lead. Angela claims that she is a journalist and keeps the camcorder close at hand from that point onwards. Don Sunderland though actively dislikes the rest of the group and considers himself their betters. While searching for food supplies, Tim and Travis find a Goliath Birdeater, a very large spider, within a cage inside one of the now empty flats. Tim starts to discuss the potential of breeding spiders as a food-source then harangues Travis for failing to do his bit as one quarter of humanity (as so far they have only found the four of them). As a result, Tim decides to bring the spider along with him in a tupperware box.
The group listens to Tim's plan of developing the apartment complex and then branching out to other more suitable locations, however, to Tim's dismay, and everyone else's elation, they notice a message flying from the Hibatsu building's top, indicating other survivors. Tim is angered because that was his ideal location and it had evidently already been taken. Don indicates that he'd already initiated an attempt to get them rescued in the form of a signal which he has misspelt as HEPL.
In an attempt to obtain a better view of the Hibatsu building, Tim crosses over to the convenience store across the street, followed by Angela, who nearly falls into the jam and has to return to Don Sunderland's apartment. Out of the blue they spot a helicopter and begin to wave towards it. It turns towards them as if to pick them up before crashing into Don Sunderland's apartment and wrecking what turns out to be an American gunship. A female figure stumbles out of the wreckage and asks the group if they knew about any rescue operations before fainting.
The group reconvene in the ruins of Don Sunderland's flat, Travis having been volunteered to check the crashed helicopter. Travis recovers a male soldier from the wreckage who was still alive but, like the woman, passed out. Don Sunderland takes advantage of the situation to take the solder's trousers in reparations for his own lack of trousers and flat. It isn't long before the mysterious woman comes to though, where she promptly requests a report from the four survivors. On discovering that the signal was intended to say HELP and not HEPL, she quickly claims amnesia to the disbelief of the group. The woman claims her companion's name is X, and that she could be called Y. To make it easier for remembering their names, Tim suggests that she be X and the man be Y so that their names matched their chromosomes.
When Y comes to, X is very quickly to impress upon him that the group of survivors misspelt HELP and that it was, quote: 'NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT.' The group are well aware that X and Y's story fails to add up, but nonetheless, Don Sunderland eventually convinces the others that X and Y are their best chance for rescue, since X and Y are likely to be a higher priority than they would be. As the group prepare to follow after X and Y, Travis reveals he has decided to name his spider 'Mary.'
The group spots a sailing boat floating down the street on the jam, apparently untouched, however X and Y strongly advise against it without giving any good reason. Angela is convinced the two shady people are responsible for an attack on Australia, perhaps for their opals. Tim ends up racing with a hitherto unknown survivor for ownership of the boat, despite X and Y's advice. This stranger, armed with a crossbow, beats Tim to the boat. However, X and Y's warnings are proven when the jam suddenly surges, forming a 15ft wave that ends up washing over the boat and the stranger. X refers to this as 'ripples' and states authoritatively that more would occur, before changing that to 'might' occur after Angela latches on to her statement.
The group decide to take the boat after the ripple and use it to head to the Hibatsu building. X and Y choose not to go, which Travis, being the last aboard, reports to Don Sunderland. Don Sunderland is enraged because he's worried X and Y might get rescued without them now. As they remained on the sailing boat, it becomes clear that none of them know how to sail, at all. However, with some effort, Travis and Tim manage to figure out how to direct the ship while Don and Angela head below to determine what supplies there are. Angela reveals the interior of the ship has been well stocked with large amounts of canned food, prompting a question from Travis as to how they would open the cans without a can-opener, to which Don suggests heading to his office. Don Sunderland had before been trying to convince the others to head over to his office so that he could pick up what remained of his project, though until now, the others had resisted the idea.
Don Sunderland and a hastily volunteered Travis head into his former office, climbing onto the 2nd floor terrace from the boat. They enter what used to be a software development office, however, they discover that the office had been broken into. The two split up, Don heading deeper inside to 'check things out' while Travis remained in the lobby. Travis decides to break open and loot a vending machine, planning to take the apple within based on Tim's assertion that the future would require farming foods on the tops of Brisbane's buildings. Breaking apart the vending machine though attracts the attention of what appear to Travis as monsters. There are three of them, and despite a valiant attempt to fend them off, Travis ends being knocked unconscious.
When Travis comes to, he and Don Sunderland have been tied to chairs by the three monsters, and Don points out to Travis that they are just people who have wrapped themselves in bin liners. The three plastic coated men seem to be just as crazy as the group of survivors, deciding that they would take Don's work and display it in the mall nearby. Their three captors insist this is because it would be ironic. They leave Travis and Don alone in the building, making their own way out. Don uses the office kitchen's hob to free himself from his bindings (also made of plastic) before the two of them escape, can-opener and apple in hand. The boat is nowhere to be seen though, the Don and Travis reason that neither Tim nor Angela would be able to figure out how to get the boat turned around towards them. As they look out over the city from the 2nd floor terrace, they spot three figures moving through the jam unharmed, the very same, plastic-wrapped men from before.
Having made judicious use of duct tape and bin-liners from a clinic several floors above, the two take off after the three plastic men from earlier. On exiting to the street, they spot their boat, just 50 yards away. However, as Travis makes his way through the jam, apple in hand, he feels it moving up his body. Travis realises the jam is moving towards the apple held in his hand above his head. At least, until it begins to recede to a very low level. Travis is quick to remember the last time the jam had done this was when it had suddenly flooded the street and washed over the boat just hours before.
Travis is able to make it back to the boat in one piece. Tim and Angela are nowhere to be seen and the interior of the boat has been wrecked utterly. As Travis searches the ruined mess, he hears Angela, commenting to her camera and frees her. The ship had been boarded by plastic men and what little there was stolen, Tim too having been taken by the plastic men and not a subject of cannibalism as Travis originally thought based on Angela's voracious appetite and the mess within the boat's kitchen.
A decision is made to rescue Tim, by Angela and Travis, and to rescue Don's work, by Don. As they sail along the jam, following the trail left by the plastic men, they spot Y and manage to rendezvous with the soldier. Y reveals that the plastic men had taken X. The group attempt to approach the lair of the plastic men, a mall, only to have their stealthy approach ruined by the boat smashing into the artistic entrance to the mall. Y swiftly dispatches the plastic men who approach the boat and heads off towards a back entrance of the mall. The group decides not to stay and wait as Y had asked, but to infiltrate the mall to ensure they could rescue Tim and Don's software.
On the inside, guards assume the newcomers to be just more new recruits, though again there is that strange emphasis on ironic behaviour. Things take a worrying turn for the worse as the three of them find a stage where X and Tim were being held. The plastic men hail a king they call Crazy Bob, who is glimpsed from a balcony. They also meet 'Princess' Ravenhair, the spokeswoman of Crazy Bob. It becomes clear that the mall dwelling plastic men have made a culture of irony and have let it enter every aspect of their lives, even speeches. They even execute one of their own by throwing him into the jam after determining that he had ironically stolen food from the god of their ironic religion (Crazy Bob) and was thus being sentenced an ironic punishment. Don discovers the hard drive containing his work is going to be placed in a museum to be protected as a symbol of the world left behind by the arrival of the jam. The group assembles once again with an argument breaking out over whether they should stay or move on. However, X insists that they find Y.
The next morning, Travis is woken by the sound of wings fluttering and after some brief exploration, discovers a budgie in a cage. Taking advantage of the fact that everyone else was still asleep, and on the basis that the seeds the budgie was eating were now vital resources for mankind's future in crop production, Travis decides to let Mary eat the bird. Tim and Travis are treated to a meal at the mall, consisting entirely of a pot-luck of foods found in plastic packaging. Food is clearly at a premium, and when Tim makes an issue of this, arguing with Lord Awesomo, he discovers that there are no plans in place for long term survival short of looting more food when the current stockpiles run low.
As part of the charter for living amongst the plastic men, Tim, Travis and Angela are roped into joining an expedition to scavenge the local buildings for food supplies. However, their group leader dies from a ripped bag shortly after exiting the mall, followed quickly by two others. The scavengers quickly decide to halt any attempt to leave the mall. A meeting convened by Lord Awesomo attempts to deal with the issue before Princess Ravenhair makes an appearance, asking the plastic men to search for Whiskers, her pet. Out of concern that there may be a pet-thief roaming the mall, Travis heads back to grab Mary. Travis discovers Princess Ravenhair near Mary. She reveals that Whiskers is in fact her pet bird, the only living thing she managed to rescue. Princess Ravenhair reveals her name was Deidre and Lord Awesomo was Gerald, presumably the adopted names were another example of the 'ironic' culture that had developed.
The group, minus X, go to grab Don Sunderland's hard drive, only to discover it on a cinema concession display. After talking with the guards, they decide to go on and see Crazy Bob himself, hoping to appeal to the leader of the plastic men for Don's work, only to discover that Crazy Bob, ex-owner of Crazy Bob's Mobile Phone Asylum is utterly insane. Tim, Travis and Angela make their way to the roof of the mall. Travis urges Tim to consider heading to the Hibatsu building rather than staying with the plastic men. Tim stalks off in a huff, leaving Travis with Angela where they discuss who would be the main character if their life was a film. Angela felt it was split between Don and Tim. On his way back to the mall interior, Travis overhears a conversation between X and Y. Y had organised an arrangement with the Hitbatsu survivors for him and X. X decided it wouldn't be necessary to inform the others nor should they worry about the 'Sunderland' issue. They imply quite strongly in the conversation that X and Y are responsible for the jam and that X feels guilt over the plastic men society.
Later that day, Travis meets up with Princess Ravenhair again, who is still worried about her pet Whiskers. She questions Travis about Mary to which Travis concocts a rather weak explanation of his 'vegetarian' spider. They go one to find Tim attempting to lead a political rally with little effective results other than idle curiousity, followed by a brief discussion of what was and wasn't actually irony. Travis finds himself cornered by Lord Awesomo, who is aware that Travis is one of Tim's friends and departs after a while, commenting him on his goliath birdeater.
That night, Travis is woken by a sound, finding Don in the process of getting dressed in plastic. He had decided to leave the group and head for the Hibatsu building. Travis asks to go along with Don and admits to Don about his role in the death of Whiskers. Before leaving, Don insists on smashing the display case that held his hard drive and taking it with him. They head for the roof but are unable to evade the guards. Don triumphantly wraps his hard drive in a plastic bag, writes 'To: Hibatsu' on the side and throws it into the jam. However, just before they were captured, the guards are cut down by Y with a hand-made bow, reavealing the exact reasons as to why no one had been able to leave the mall.
Y disappears again shortly after denying his culpability for the murder of the plastic men leaving Don and Travis alone on the rooftops. They make their way to their boat, the sailing ship still intact, and cast off, directing the vessel towards the Hibatsu building. The Hibatsu building was different because the jam here has sheathed the building up to its third floor. As Travis and Don approach, they spot people who watch them from the windows but otherwise make no attempts to provide assistance. That's when Travis and Don realise that the jam level had receded once more and hastily recall that the last time that had occured the jam had formed a wave that had washed over the boat. Desparately, Don details what he has aboard the ship in the hope they would be rescued, and finally a grappling hook, made from an office chair and network cable, is thrown onto the boat.
To their dismay, the Hibatsu people, who had evidentally been office workers, appear just as insane as the plastic men. They are barely dressed and have inked tattoos onto their bodies with marker pens. Travis is hogtied and left hanging in a dark meeting room. Some time later, he manages to attract someone's attention, who promptly asks Travis if he had booked the meeting room and becomes quite incensed as Acquisitions having used their meeting room without booking. Two bearers take him, still hogtied with duct tape, up to see Kathy.
Kathy turns out to be CEO of the Hibatsu Survival Settlement and informs the two of them that according to the Hibatsu Survival Settlement Charter any individual who cannot reimburse the company in liquid assets (i.e. any goods of value) must make it up with 'voluntary existence suspension.' Fortunately, Travis has a banana that he had taken from the mall and the two are accepted nominally into the Hibatsu settlement. Kathy later demands to know what skills they might contribute to their settlement and once more, the two are unable to provide any useful examples. Only Travis' mention about having come from the mall ignites any interest but to Travis' dismay, he and Don are sent to infiltrate the mall on behalf of Hibatsu, something neither of them were keen at all to do.
On returning to the Briar Center, they find out that Tim has begun running against Lord Awesomo in an election campaign, however, Lord Awesomo reveals that he knew who killed Whiskers, indicating it was a 'birdeater' but gets no further before he is shot by an arrow. He collapses, and chaos spreads as Y picks off some of the other plastic men. A hasty decision is made by Tim to hunt down Y, accompanied by Angela, Travis, Don. They are hastily armed with impromptu weapons and armor, given to them by one of Tim's followers in the settlement, something of a gun-nut pre-jam crisis. The group manage to successfully chase off Y, primarily because he was out of arrows and work out he had to have been manufacturing them in one of the mall's stores. After a brief firefight involving balsawood arrows, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a flamethrower hastily thrown together from a barbecue lighter and deodorant cans, X convinces Y to stand down. Tim escorts Y with X to the plastic men settlement while Angela and Travis look around the ruined shop. Inside, they discover an identity card belonging to Y with most of the details burnt off except for one prominent line that reads 'Human Extinction Protocal Libra' (HEPL).
On returning to the Briar Center settlement, Tim begins to establish himself as the de facto leader by virtue of his capture of Y and Lord Awesomo's bad leadership. They use Crazy Bob to help establish their right to rule and everything appears to finally be going the group's way for a change. And then Crazy Bob stands up and asserts he recognises Don as the man who pushed him over when Don and Travis had made their escape to the rooftop and finally, Crazy Bob says the one thing that turns the crowd against them. He states that he remembered seeing the man with the 'goliath birdeater.' Furthermore, they are identified as the group that knew Y. Lord Awesomo turns the tables on the group and sentences them to the Pit.
The Pit turns out to be a lower part of the mall that contained the jam and the group of five are thrown into the Pit after having their crimes listed by Lord Awesomo. Within the Pit itself, they (except for Y) find themselves standing in 3ft of jam, still wrapped in plastic, but surrounded by broken glass, barbed wire and other sharp, cutting instruments. Travis is volunteered to go and swim under the jam with a plastic bag over his breathing hole to the other side, from where he could tie up a cable and allow the others to escape. For a brief second, having swam through the jam, Travis contemplates leaving the group behind before he finally ties up the cable. On reaching the street level, X decides that she and the group should make efforts to Y, to which the others argue that Y was more than capable of dealing with the plastic men by himself.
Moving back towards the Briar Center, they spot the plastic men on the roof of the mall with Y in hand. Lord Awesomo mocks the Hibatsu survivors by megaphone and announces he was ready to go to war with them, starting with their prisoner. Y lunges at the plastic men to prevent X being shot by the plastic men, creating a distraction. In the meantime, the Hibatsu survivors reveal their hastily assembled trebuchet and begins firing copiers and filing cabinets at the plastic men. Order collapses as the plastic men charge the Hibatsu building, only to be cut down in droves by the more disciplined survivors within the office building.
The group attempts to rescue Y, only to really discover that rescue was more or less the wrong choice of words, as Y single handedly held off the plastic men around him, even while bound in cable. Lord Awesomo manages to arm himself with a hunting rifle and holds the group at bay, before he decided to kill them, his madness really coming to the fore. X shouts that they can't, but Angela, with inspiration tries to be ironic and asks to be shot, stating they'd really love that. It gives Lord Awesomo pause but 'too little, too late.' He takes aim at X, a mistake as Y suddenly leaps up to take the bullet for X. He staggers forward, wounded, and charges Lord Awesomo, tearing his plastic clothes off him before hurling himself and Lord Awesomo off the edge of the mall into the jam. Angela, rather unkindly, documents the entire event on her camcorder, commenting on their deaths in front of X and Princess Ravenhair (who had been standing in the sidelines for much of the battle). Rather understandibly, both of the women attack Angela, only stopped by Hibatsu's demand for a surrender from the Briar Center survivors.
Later in the day, the group and what remained of the Briar Center survivors find themselves inducted into the Hibatsu settlement. Tim's dreams of becoming a member of the board is scuttled by the fact that he'd need a recommendation from a fellow leader and the only available leader was Princess Ravenhair who loathes the entire group. Following X late at night, Angela and Travis discover her throwing away items belonging to Y from the top of a building and confront her with the evidence of HEPL. X simply takes the card and throws it off the building, insisting now that they could not prove any statement they made. Angela and Travis remain atop the building, discussing what HEPL could really be before they witness the jam form another tidal wave. This time, from their position, they can see waves coming from all four directions. It becomes clear that the jam has been converging on the Hibatsu building for some time.
On the seventh day, they are woken by the test of the emergency fire system, which involves a man screaming fire, before being thanked for their cooperation. Don's initial happiness is quashed when he realises that recovering his hard drive is useless without any computers or electricity. Angela, Don, Travis and Tim are assigned to scavenging the city, starting with the Briar Center. Having finished scavenging the mall's interior, Travis finds Ravenhair, the title Princess no longer applying. She forgives him for what Travis describes as 'Tweet tweet chomp chomp.' X appears, and angrily shares with Ravenhair the fact that the Hibatsu building didn't have any access to outside communications. Y had misinterpreted the corporate speech that was used to describe the banner that the Hibatsu settlement had raised. Returning from their second scavenging expedition, they discover that the jam level has risen higher within the Hibatsu building and coats the entire third floor in a low layer. During a meeting with Kathy, leader of the settlement, on the fourth floor, the jam successfully breaks through the windows and absorbs her, causing widespread panic. Travis finds himself looking down at the jam-coated fourth floor and the survivors watch as the jam begins to rise slowly up the staircase.
Travis confronts X with the knowledge that he was aware of X's responsibility for the jam in an attempt to force X to reveal what she knew about the jam. X grudgingly admits that the jam was designed to extend itself towards organic material, thereby ensuring that no pockets of resistance develop. Travis realises that the influx of the Briar Center survivors has caused the jam to redouble its efforts to fill the Hibatsu building. X asks Travis to take her to see how far the jam has risen and by the time they get back to the stairwell they are able to see that the jam had risen to the fifth floor. Angela arrives, causing Travis to turn around, letting him catch sight of the fact that X had been preparing to shove him into the jam. By this stage, the Hibatsu board of directors asks to see the group and informs them that they have decided to start throwing individuals into the jam and that their group had been nominated first, would six o'clock be an acceptable time limit to unanimously decide who first? They then move onto the second item on their agenda, the arrival of an aircraft carrier in the river, prompting X to rush to the roof to view it, followed closely by the others.
X reveals that the vessel is the USS Obi-Wan, the name chosen from an online PR poll. This was the very same carrier that X and Y had escaped from in their helicopter, but the vessel is now jam-free and deserted. Thinking that the generator aboard should still be functional and that this would lead to being able to call for outside help, X suggest that she go alone to the ship and make contact with the outside world. The rest of the group refuse to buy her attempt to ditch them and decide to go with her to the carrier. After all, the alternative is being sacrificed to the jam. They make their way to the 5th floor windows and jump onto their sailing boat's mast and make their way to the river.
As the boat approaches the carrier, the group begin to discuss X's most recent behaviour, namely her decision to lock herself in the boat's fridge. As they approach the carrier, they suddenly realise they are dead in the water, the jam rising around the boat. Their situation worsens as the jam splits the boat in two with Travis at the rear end, and Angela, Tim and Don at the front end. Their panic has attracted some attention though because a rope ladder is dropped from the carrier's hull towards them allowing the three at the front to escape. With no other options available, Travis joins X in the fridge.
Thinking that this was finally the end, X admits that she knew all about the jam, she had known the jam would weaken the boat from the start and tells Travis that she really was responsible for the jam. However, the fridge begins to rise, being dragged out of the jam, giving the two a lease on life. Travis is delighed at the rescue until he finds X trying to choke the life out of him.
Travis comes to on the deck of the USS Obi-wan where he tells the group about X's confession. Angela quickly asks him to repeat it after switching on the camcorder, though the other two seem unaffected by the news. They go on to meet Dr. Thorn, their rescuer, who addresses X as Yolanda. Dr. Thorn reveals that HEPL was indeed responsible for the situation and that it had been an accident. The USS Obi-wan had arrived in Australia to safely test a method of neutralising the jam. HEPL didn't develop weapons of mass destruction, but like the poorly-named fire department, was designed to prevent the existence of weapons like the jam. HEPL had been given it to study but one day found the container that kept the swarm of jam missing. Travis however, realises X had once more disappeared during the talk. The group discover that Dr. Thorn had been working on a neutralising agent that he was going to name 'Peanut Butter' and that the United States of America was currently enforcing a blockade of Australia which they claimed was to ensure that Australia was safe of 'space radiation' that might be emitted from the massive metorite shower that struck it. Dr. Thorn revealed that he had a partially working sample of Peanut Butter but that he required the data that Y was carrying on him to finish the project and neutralise the jam.
When Travis goes with Dr. Thorn to the carrier's deck, he suddenly hears a gunshot. Dr. Thorn collapses, shot in the chest and Travis spots only the vague outline of a figure armed with a long rifle. The very same rifle that the doctor had used to watch the group before revealing himself to them earlier. Assuming it was once more X trying to bump them all off for the secrets that Dr. Thorn had revealed, Travis races below deck to tell the others. He finds only Don and shares what he has seen before Angela appears with X in hand. She forces X to confess to the jam incident, but is utterly shocked by the death of Dr. Thorn which leads the group to question where exactly Tim had gone to...
Travis races up to the bridge to find it sealed with no-one answering as he hammers on the door until after a moment, Tim opens to door to ask Travis to leave off it before shutting the hatch again. Below deck, Travis uncovers a USB memory stick in the trousers Don stole from Y, a USB that X frantically demands that they not look at. It is then that they finally uncover the truth behind the jam's arrival. Their sinister plan was nothing more than carelessness, they had left the container with the jam on the wrong car and driven away from the site. The jam had escaped and then practically chased them all the way to the ship, though they were unaware of the developing crisis until they got back to the USS Obi-wan. X had merely been covering for Y's mistake the entire time.
The ship is brought out to sea from where Travis can see the American fleet in the distance, prompting another plea to stop the ship. Tim tells Travis that he can see the fleet but has no intention of stopping. This results in a frantic decision to stop the vessel by switching off the generator, but Don has no intention of allowing the rest of the group to do so as his work is finally being uploaded through the ship's satellite connection to the internet. The American fleet fires a warning shot that blows off the carrier's satellite receiver causing Don to return to his habitual state of anger. Unfortunately, the decision to shut down the generator was taken too late and the fleet opens fire once more, breaching the side of the vessel and letting the jam into the interior of the ship. X and Angela in turn are consumed by the jam leaving Travis who runs to pull Don away from the computer, inadvertantly saving his life from the next shot that hit the carrier. The combined actions of the American navy and the jam were bringing down the ship and Don makes his way to the lifeboats while Travis decides to try to rescue Tim.
Travis finds Tim already settling into a lifeboat as the ship goes down around him and makes a desparate jump. He lands safely and settles inside with Tim. As the jam starts probing the lifeboat for an entrance, Tim decides that he ought to shoot Travis, to help reduce the organic material by giving Travis up to the jam. Travis responds by throwing his only possession at Tim, the box containing Mary. Mary's box opens and the spider falls on Tim, causing him to panic and fall out of the lifeboat leaving Travis alone with his pet spider.
Travis, alone on the lifeboat suffers a mild psychotic break down, ascribing a voice and female personality to his spider Mary. He eventually argues with the spider and when he tried to pick her up, gets bitten for his trouble causing him to hit the spider, knocking it against the other side of the lifeboat. However, as he lies there, pained by the spider bite, he is finally rescued by an American vessel. He spots Don aboard who explains that thanks to their possession of the USB containing the data about the jam, the US was having to cut losses and abandon their initial plan to keep the world unaware.
The story ends with an epilogue a few weeks later. Don plans to stay in America, and even has jobs lined up for both him and Travis. Travis, though, seeks to return to Australia, with the aim of finding Deidre (Ravenhair) and living in Brisbane.
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!