THE OTHER END
If you ask me, this is just what we need right now: a sober, non-religious (though unabashedly left-leaning) account of an apocalypse, specifically conceived as an alternative to those fundamentalist “End Times” books by Tim LaHaye and others--and by extension our current faith-based leadership (President George W. Bush, FYI, is a fan of LaHaye’s work).
Another plus is author John Shirley returning to the type of tripped-out metaphysical weirdness that typified his bizarro masterworks SILICON EMBRACE and ...AND THE ANGEL WITH THE TELEVISION EYES, after penning a ton of movie novelizations and series novels. For a time I feared this peerlessly idiosyncratic author might be going the way of his contemporary K.W. Jeter (who crafted some of the most individual genre fiction of the eighties and nineties but now seems permanently lost in the hack jungle)--THE OTHER END, thankfully, attests that John Shirley is still doing what he does best.
The LaHaye books, for those who don’t know, are based on the Christian concept of the Rapture, which decrees that prior to the apocalypse all the True Believers (i.e. right wing Christians) will be whisked off to Heaven, with the rest of us left to fend for ourselves as the world falls into anarchy. THE OTHER END, in addition to making clear that the idea of the Rapture in fact appears nowhere in the Bible, depicts an apocalypse in which progressive-minded people are taken away to a better reality, while those who are “fundamentalist, hard-line, inflexible” get left behind.
But before that happens various assholes around the world--corrupt CEOs, gangbangers, religious nuts of every stripe--are zapped by “consciousness lamps” that show their misguided lives as they truly are, thus inspiring them to change their evil ways. There follows a wall of light that sweeps across the globe, neutralizing the world’s most dangerous individuals...and then occurs the alterna-rapture. Extraterrestrial “programmers” have decided our planet needs to be rebooted, so to speak, and have devised this particular apocalypse to set things right.
With a panoramic scope and a half dozen or so central characters (along with cameos by President Bush, Osama Bin Laden and the aforementioned Tim LaHaye, who all go unnamed), the book has an epic thrust, but is still a fast, easy read. The tone is disconcertingly cheerful, at least in contrast to much of the author’s previous work. I prefer my John Shirley books tough and nasty (the case with essentials like CELLARS, WETBONES and THE VIEW FROM HELL), but THE OTHER END is so much fun I can’t complain overmuch. Watching the real bad guys of our world get their just desserts is gratifying, to say the least; in his introduction the author claims the book at one time might have been subtitled A WISTFUL DREAM, which does adequately sum up the overall effect.
Incidentally, the current (as of July ’07) 1,000 copy print run by Cemetery Dance, with a more deluxe edition in the works, is likely the only publication THE OTHER END will see. I understand other publishers have been courted, but none have bit. In other words, those interested in purchasing this book are strongly advised to do so ASAP--if at all possible buy two copies and give one to your local church!