Vasilis "Billy" Kostopolos is a Bay Area Rust Belt refugee, a failed sci-fi writer, a successful barfly, and, since the exceptionally American zombie apocalypse, an accomplished "driller" of reanimated corpses. There aren't many sane, well-adjusted human beings left in San Francisco, but facing the end of the world, Billy's found his vocation trepanning the undead, peddling his one and only published short story, and drinking himself to death.
Things don't stay static for long. Billy discovers that both his girlfriends turn out to be homicidal revolutionaries. He collides with a gang of Berkeley scientists gone berserker. Finally, the long-awaited "Big One" shakes the foundation of San Francisco to its core, and the crumbled remains of city hall can no longer hide the awful secret lurking deep in the basement. Can Billy unearth the truth behind America's demise and San Francisco's survival - and will he destroy what little's left of it in the process? Is he legend, the last man, or just another sucker on the vine?
Nick Mamatas takes a high-powered drill to the lurching, groaning conventions of zombie dystopias and conspiracy thrillers, sparing no cliché about tortured artists, alcoholic "genius", noir action heroes, survivalist dogma, or starry-eyed California dreaming. Starting in booze-soaked but very clear-eyed cynicism and ending in gloriously uncozy catastrophe, The Last Weekend is merciless, uncomfortably perceptive, and bleakly hilarious.
©2014 Nick Mamatas; First Night Shade Books edition 2016 (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
This wasn't a poorly written book necessarily; it just wasn't worth the time. There are many other choices which should take precedence over this listen. I am a fan of horror/zombie/allegorical fiction and this just… it missed the mark.
It ‘borrowed’ heavily from other titles in the genre and, quite frankly, lost the essence in translation. There were a few redeeming aspects, but by and large this was a series of grotesque caricatures that never amounted to much. The forced relationships, the blatant alcoholism… these can be justified in certain circumstances or stories, if they are properly handled. They just weren’t here.
I was left unimpressed with the ending and mildly irritated that I had wasted my time on this listen. Ignore it and search out better fare.
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The Last Weekend, by Nick Mamatas, is billed as a novel of “zombies, booze, and power tools,” which may be the truthiest bit of truth in advertising that ever was. This sucker is chock full of all three, and each are at the core of Billy Kostopolos’s world and, to a degree, his identity.
The Last Weekend is told in first-person, so we get to know Billy pretty well (whether we like it or not). Billy is a haughty writer and alcoholic who hides his many insecurities behind choice phrases he has memorized from literature, lobbing out quotes from Shakespeare and Charles Bukowski in an effort to impress and/or alienate those around him. To put it simply, Billy’s pretty much a jackass. After being scorned by his girlfriend, he’s fled west to San Francisco without much in the way of advanced planning beyond drinking himself to death. He just so happens to wake up hungover one morning in the midst of the zombie apocalypse and decides to become a particular brand of city employee known as a driller. With supplies short, drillers are equipped with, naturally enough, power drills to destroy the brains of the infected. Even though he’s mostly waiting to die, Billy is still a writer first-and-foremost, and he chases experiences in order to give his words weight, and there’s not much weightier in the world anymore than running a drill bit through some old lady’s brain pan.
Like all really good zombie stories, this book is not about the zombies per se. True, the zombies provide plenty of impetus for action and reaction, but they’re largely set dressing to gussy up the plot. The real story here is Billy and the society he lives in, as people are forced to reconnect and survive in a post-apocalyptic world of sorts (America, we learn early on, is the only country affected by this plague of the undead). Mamatas has lots to say about the nature and struggles of being a writer, as well as alcoholism and depression. This all gets wrapped up in a dark sheen of cynical, black humor, occasional bouts of wicked violence, and an interesting detour through the history of the 49ers gold rush, SanFran cemeteries and burial rites.
Narrator Kevin T. Collins delivers a terrific performance with his narration, hitting all the right alternating beats of insecure and sanctimonious to bring Billy to life. Billy may not always be the ideal protagonist to spend eight hours with, but Collins makes this an easily enjoyable listen and serves Mamatas’s material quite well. The production quality is top-notch, and the audio is clean.
The Last Weekend is an easy book to recommend for horror fans looking for a more literary ride through zombie-town, or maybe just for those who thought Leaving Las Vegas needed a good dose of the undead and power tools. I suspect, though, that if there are any other authors giving this a listen, some of the material may hit uncomfortably close. Now, if you’ll excuse me, after having spent a few days in the company of one Billy Kostopolos, I think I need a drink.
Audiobook was purchased for review by ABR.
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