rating: 4 of 5 stars
If Cormac McCarthy and Hunter S. Thompson crashed Kinky Friedman’s house, dropped acid, and wrote a book in one night, it would probably be GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE. Instead, Victor Gischler wrote it.
GO-GO tells the tale of Mortimer Tate, a man who saw the end of his marriage – and the world – coming and hight-tailed it to the Tennessee mountains to wait out the worst of it. Eight years later, still living in a cabin with a cave nearby loaded with supplies, Mortimer runs across three men out looking for food. He later finds out they were cannibals, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Mortimer’s first human contact after that is a man he dubs The Beast, a huge man who wants Mortimer’s stash and is willing to put Mort on a leash to get it. Fortunately, the third person he meets (The Beast’s pet girl Sheila being the second), a cowboy wannabe named Bill, drops The Beast and helps Mortimer find civilization.
Or what’s left of it. Electricity is a scarce commodity generated by indentured servants on bicycles. Society revolves around a chain of go-go joints with their own currency, Joey Armageddon’s Sassy-a-Go-Go. With a case of real booze, Mortimer soon becomes a platinum member and, apparently, a very wealthy man. Booze in the post-apocalyptic world – with the exception of Jack Daniels still be brewed by armed fanatics of the recipe – is pretty bad.
Mortimer soon embarks on a quest to find his ex-wife Anne. He is joined by Bill and eventually Sheila. Along the way, he battles the cannibalistic Red Stripes, locates paradise on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, and makes his way to the Lost City of Atlanta with the help of “Old Ted.” Old Ted claims to have been a big shot in the pre-apocalypse and is none too happy to see what they’ve done to CNN Center.
Gischler’s apocalypse is believable, if only because parts of it are already in the news. No one thing destroys the world. Europe has a famine. Washington is blown up by terrorists. China is blown up by Russia, who is blown up by China. Civilization doesn’t so much end as it just grinds to a very rapid halt.
And yet while frightening and very possible, Gischler’s dystopia is also laugh-out-loud funny. A lone insurance salesman goes on a quest to find his wife and possibly stop a brewer of really bad beer from taking over the world with the last gasoline to be refined in all America. All the while, it’s a chain of saloons full of booze and naked women and punk rock bands that is sewing the seeds of a new world order. As Joey Armageddon puts it, the Dark Ages had the Catholic Church. The modern dark age has his go-go girls.
A very fast read that’s a cross between Mad Max and steam punk written after a three-day bender.