A Boston-Area Fictional Survival Story
A Harvard first-year undergraduate wakes up on an empty campus. The buildings are dark. He believes he’s late for class, but soon he gets the idea that time may have passed, or unpassed, in an abnormal way. There are no humans, and plant and animal wildlife has already begun to retake the city. Traversing Mass Ave is still a bit of a challenge, as it is in real life, but in entirely new ways.
This is the opening of Gene Doucette’s The Apocalypse Seven. The book is named for the survivors of the fictional humanity-ending event: Touré, Robbie, Carol, Paul, Win, Bethany, and Ananda. They wonder what has happened. Are they ghosts? Is the world a hologram? Are they players in a video game? Has the Rapture come? Did everyone else die? Or did everyone else, perhaps, turn into animals?
They find emergency food provisions, a tasteless substance ticklishly called “Noot,” in sufficient quantity to give them time to learn to hunt for food and generally reinvent survival strategies they don’t already have. Moving out to the suburbs where there is more land to farm may be a good long-term option. Meanwhile, predatory animals seem especially large and prowling.
I grew up in the area near Lexington and Lincoln that features here, where I heard the history of early settlers and farmers. Imagining how I might live off this land is a basic question within my normal mental framework; whether I could lead a horse “up the ramp to the Massachusetts Turnpike” has also at times seemed a reasonable hypothetical, given my own private flurries; whether telephones would need to be reinvented or rebuilt is probably also relevant; the implicit Would you rather…? of Knife-fight a bear? or Remain very cold without a bearskin? is definitely an important existential question. So I do enjoy a novel that explores these problems.
Unserious though such a fictional premise may seem, for me it inevitably raises the question of why humans believe that “humanity” itself — “civilization,” let’s say — is important, and what sorts of artifacts and systems we tend to believe would be important to maintain or reconstruct. We might change our assumptions when faced with a pressing situation.
The “whateverpocalypse,” as the planet-altering event is sometimes referred to in this novel, is seen by the characters as a mystery to be contemplated and unpacked. The Apocalypse Seven is a good “summer read” even if one must, if ever faced with the whateverpocalypse, worry about what will happen when winter comes.
I received a free copy of the book through NetGalley.