Five queer kids save the world after an apocalypse!

With that premise, I expected to enjoy the book a lot more than I actually did. It’s largely a comedy, with the apocalypse caused by Muldoona, a Goddess lurking in her Fortress of Despair and eating peeled grapes. Humor is the most subjective of forms, and others might well find this book funnier than I did. I mostly found it totally unfunny.

The first chapter introduces Skilly, a bisexual 5000-year-old caveman in a 17-year-old body, due to having been given an Amulet of Immortality by his brother Urf.

It is a rule of fiction that protagonist cavepeople get names that sound like names, and non-protagonists get guttural grunts. See also The Clan of the Cave Bear: Protagonist: Ayla. Leading Man: Jondalar. Supporting Cast: Creb, Brun, Broud. In both books, this is explained within the text: Ayla and Jondalar are Cro-Magnons, who are more verbal, and Skilly was not his birth name. Still, the rule stands. Why don’t cavepeople ever get brief names that don’t sound like manly grunts, like Eee, Bip, or Baa?

I am always complaining that ancient immortals never sound, talk, or act like ancient immortals. But in a comedy, why not mine the fact that a main character is prehistoric for laughs? Though Skilly mentions ancient stuff sometimes, he otherwise seems like a modern 20-something.

The other main characters are Vikky and Ginger, a pair of indistinguishable shallow, snarky teenagers, Julia, a less shallow but still snarky teenager, and Marly, who is trans or genderqueer. Marly’s gender identity is not clear-cut, which I liked. Marly is in a locked-in juvenile facility for skipping school. It was explained that teenagers can be locked up for stuff which is not illegal for adults. This is true, but, as was typical of many plot points, an unlikely motivation or occurrence does not get any more plausible just because it’s given one line of justification. Some of this was clearly meant as a joke, but I generally didn't find it funny. In other cases, even satire needs to make sense on its own terms, and this book often didn't.

The apocalypse consists of magically-induced nuclear catastrophe, which kills hundreds of thousands of people and leads to Ginger and Julia getting stranded, along with other shallow American tourists, inside Anne Frank’s house. This is every bit as embarrassingly anvillicious as it sounds. Meanwhile, Marly is stranded in juvenile detention. The kids’ predicament has some nice narrative tension… until Gods give them all magical amulets that solve everything.

If this had been about straight kids, I would not have made it past chapter one. If I hadn’t been on an airplane, I would have given up right there. However, I made it to the end, and I’m kind of glad I did, because the WTF just kept coming. Starting with Marly, previously the most sympathetic character, in the space of a single conversation, becoming one of the least sympathetic characters I have ever encountered in anything.

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Not my cup of tea. But it might be yours! I have a low tolerance for hipster irony, and very particular tastes in comedy.

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