Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's Only Temporary: A Review

Eric Shapiro's It's Only Temporary is an apocalyptic novella that from, the perspective of a college aged boy, details the final 110-hour countdown of a meteor doomed world.  It is a very short read with my hard copy ending at page 100, and the Kindle listing (2nd e.) listed at 76 pages.  This novella is also collected in the three-story Stories for the End of the World.

Cover from Kindle link

Eric Shapiro (1978-) is an actor,  screen writer, filmmaker, essayist/film critic and author of horror novels. Originally from New Jersey, he now (per the book blurb) lives with his wife in Los Angeles. This novella was on the shortlist for the Edgar Award.
Sean loves Selma, his ex-girlfriend from college.  With six weeks notice that the world is going to end, at the last moment (10 hours left) he decides he wants to be with her, rather than his faily at the end.  This is the necessary input for an episodic road trip, where he meets a very mixed assortment of folks good and bad.  Some of them going a little crazy.
Given the author's film credentials, and a common modern literary framing technique in any case, the book feels like a series of scenes from a sometimes comedic, action-movie.  This has the advantage of keeping the pace rolling, and hitting a lot of highlights in a short length, but tends to leave everything a little shallow.
Did I like it? It was o.k.  It's short so the time-spent opportunity cost is low.  But when I was interrupted a couple of times while reading it, I didn't rush back as quick as possible to get started again.  There is just enough existential ramblings to give the story a little purpose, but the protagonist was sitcom glib, and just a little too annoying for me to call this a fun read.  I will give it a tentative rejection as the rejection is as much about stylistic preferences as it is about content.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realistic?  It is set in our modern world, has a scientifically plausible excuse for the coming collapse, and doesn't get far enough into the adventure to deal with the more mundane issues of the world.  The people are a little odd. But it is the sort of oddity that much of the rest of the country would expect Californians to act.  The setting is "small town USA" and interconnecting highways, but has a Californian feel to it.  The protagonist is an Art Major after all.  With nothing to make it overly gritty or intense, and some intentionally surreal encounters with people acting oddly, we will call it a 5.
Readability:  Easy.  Short book: a novella.  Too much psychological babble to be a page turner, but the vignette style keeps it moving: a 6.

Original hardcopy Cover (the one I have)


PioneerPreppy said...

Is it just me or is there a big trend towards small novella type stories out there in the collapse world. I think I came across several while reading last Winter I downloaded on my NOOK.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: Yes, it is driven by the e-book market. Previously novellas didn't price well because of the relatively high shipping costs.