By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mamatas, Nick. The Last Weekend. Jacketed Hardcover (February 2014). 224 pages. ISBN: 978-1-848637-21-4. Price: £20.00
This is a book about an alcoholic writer, but at least it has zombies. That’s how Nick Mamatas described his latest novel on social media. And that’s pretty much the pitch, though going in, you should know the book has more in common with Corey Redekop’s Husk than Night of the Living Dead. Not that there are no gross moments, since the protagonist, Vasilis Kostopolos, works as a “driller,” trepanning zombies in San Francisco. But this is not really a zombie book in the mold of most survivalist zombie fare.
What is it, then? It is, like all of Mamatas’s novels, a darkly funny look at pop culture (Cthulhu gets a nod at one point) with plenty of literary references (Hello, Bukowski). The book bounces between the present-day, zombie-infested United States and the college days of Kostopolos, and it reads more literary than speculative in the way events unfold, which is pretty much what you might expect of Mamatas.
There are some neat little details tucked into the book. For example, the United States is the only country affected by the zombie apocalypse, which seems fitting, since alien invasions and major disasters seem to only occur in the USA. Zombie killing is a mundane occupation and Kostopolos gets his zombie training by drilling into a bowling ball. No great action-montage sequence here, folks.
Readers in search of “likeable” protagonists – you know, Brad Pittish brave blokes out to save humanity – will find themselves hard-pressed to enjoy Kostopolos, but then again, likeable protagonists are a crock that they tell you to fabricate in those How-To-Write-A-Novel-That-Sells books. If you want that type of hero, there are whole shelves of books with them, no worries.
At 70,000 words, I believe, this is Nick Mamatas’s longest novel, which is kind of surprising in the era when we are told it’s 80,000 or you WILL NEVER GET PUBLISHED. It’s also, I think, his last foray into speculative territory. These days he is writing stuff like Love is the Law, dubbed a neo-noir. The Last Weekend is published by the Brits at PS Publishing and is only available in hardcover (signed or regular edition), so it’s not cheap, but the jacket artwork is cool. At any rate, if you are cheap or poor or whatever, and you are going to wait for a paperback or e-book to materialize, you might want to purchase Love is the Law in the meantime. For one, it’s very affordable (less than $10) and second, it’s a fast, sharp read about an 80s punk girl trying to figure out who killed her occultist lover. Enjoy.