Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last God Standing by Michael Boatman

After presiding over humanity for over 2000 years, God has decided to abdicate and live as a human. No, this isn't like when Jesus was born of a virgin; this time his only motive is to simply let humanity get on with it. With Yahweh out of the way, humanity's now lesser deities like Zeus want to step into his shoes and become powerful again.  The battle lines are drawn and now God, stuck in the body of Lando Calrissian (yes, that Lando Calrissian from Star Wars) Darnell Cooper has a war on his hands that he might no longer have the ability to fight.

Last God Standing has a very interesting concept. With all of the horrors in recent history it is hard for some to believe that there is an all knowing being up in the sky directing the hot mess we currently live in.  From the concentration camps, to natural disasters, global warming, environmental decay and income inequality, even the most optimistic amongst us has to believe that humanity is in trouble.  As far as a premise goes, Michael Boatman picked a winner.  Unfortunately, that is the last good thing I can say about Last God Standing.

At times, Last God Standing made absolutely no sense whatsoever.  The entire plot was incredibly rushed and even with that, I found myself struggling to get to the end.  At about the 1/3 I sincerely considered DNFing this book for it's sheer incomprehensibility.  The characters had absolutely no development and felt like cartoons rather than representatives of real people.  Last God Standing is little more than a long winded joke, which when finally coming to end, has no damn punch line.  My deepest regret is that I will never retrieve the hours I invested reading this story hoping that it would at some point live up to its premise.

Not only is Last God Standing poorly written, it is offensive on almost every level you can think of.  It quickly became a written guide to homophobia with f@g appearing constantly without any indication that such hate speech is problematic. When the word gay was not being used as a pejorative, it was operationalized as the punchline of many jokes. Last God Standing heavily implied that real men most certainly were not gay or effeminate. In one passage, Herb refers to gay as a "lifestyle", something that irresponsible men of colour are free to engage in like the "White Man's children," now that African-Americans have made some civil rights gains.  For almost the entirety of this novel, there were no GLBT characters, that is until "Barbara declared herself a "Happy Lesbian," sold her taverns and moved to the Pacific Northwest with her therapist to open a rehabilitation facility."  Boatman filled his novel with homophobia and no GLBT characters until page 300, as though this could somehow redeem the problematic language he engaged in throughout the book.  Just no. No. No. With passages like the following, there can be no doubt that Boatman means his homophobia to pass as comedy.

“It’s OK,” I said. “No reason to be embarrassed.”“Embarrassed? You think I’m effeminate, don’t you, Lando? That it? You think McFarlane’s a big flamer?”I laughed. McFarlane didn’t. He glared at me, his steel gray eyes suddenly as cold as a frost giant’s netherhole.“Are you calling me a fag, Lando?”“No!”McFarlane’s face turned orange, then bright red. Then he punched me in the stomach.
You would think that because Boatman is a Black man that Last God Standing would at least not be racially insensitive, but you would be wrong. Lando is constantly told to get his hair cut because he looks like a "spear chucker." Of course his afro looks unkept, everyone knows that natural hair cannot possibly look good /snark. When Lando isn't being called a "spear chucker", he is being called a "bush baby" and this is all supposed to be comedy.  I understand people wanting to reclaim words to steal power from the oppressor but this is all about turning these offensive comments into comedy, as though there is no historical pain associated with them.

When Boatman isn't being racially insensitive, he spends his time being outright Islamophobic.  Each time a terrorist attack is mentioned of course the Muslims are to blame.

“No no,” the pudgy reporter snipped. “Cell… as in terrorist sleeper cell. Which one are you working with?”“I knew it. He’s a Muslim!” the old woman with the broken ankle shouted. “Look at that curly hair, the swarthy complexion!”A British tourist, who was trying to staunch the blood pouring from a gash in her husband’s forehead, spoke up.“He looks Italian to me.”“Italian? Where are your brains, slut? Look at those shifty eyes. He’s an Arab!”“Or a Jew!” someone among the reporters piped in. “He could be an Israeli. Look at that hooked nose.”“That’s anti-semitic!” a bearded man standing next to me barked. “You’re all racists!”

Oh yes, more offensive language for comic relief.  

Why leave out the other oppressions when Boatman has been so good when it comes to race and sexuality? Ableism got its form of inclusion with "You look like a retarded voodoo doll."  Then of course there is fat shaming:

 "Calliope was fat; she easily tipped the scales at over two hundred and fifty pounds, well within an acceptable healthy range for a woman of her age… if that woman stood nine feet tall. Calliope stood about five six. On a light day, after a year of intensive dieting, strenuous exercise and projectile vomiting she might pass for “portly.” Now, she was just fat. Ironically, she was also gorgeous. Calliope Moloke was one of those unfortunate women who make random passersby think, “What a beautiful face. If only…” Calliope was doomed to be the “if only” in a never-ending line of pitying strangers’ beauty evaluations. Thus her seething rancor."

We’d once caught her screaming into a mirror she’d strategically smashed so that it reflected her only from the neck up. She’d sworn off alcohol, milk, carbohydrates, red meat, wheat, sugar, salt, nuts, fruit, cheeses, shellfish, warm soups, eggs, and all associated oils and unguents before heading straight for the refrigerator, where she grabbed a rice cake and slammed the door on her way to her managerial job at Pizza Hut.
“I have a metabolic condition. It’s not my fault I’m hypothyroidal. But my capitalist father thinks it’s all in my head. Which is completely typical for a bourgeois drone like you, Daddy.

Yes, the angry fat lady who despite all the odds managed to beautiful even while burdened fat flesh. Miracles happen everyday, praise the Lord.

I normally don't quote this much from a book in a review; however, the horror which is Last God Standing had to be seen to be believed.  Almost every page, I found myself highlighting something and shaking my head in disgust.  Boatman didn't even come up with a real story to help soothe the stink from all of the oppressions he continuously engaged in.  What little discernible plot which exists in Last God Standing is rushed and the protagonist is callous and irritating.  I couldn't invest in the story and I most certainly couldn't invest in the characters. At best, Last God Standing is a book you should borrow from the library and then pray for forgiveness from your library card for defiling it with this vapid collection of mutterings masquerading as a book.

Editor's Note: A copy of this book was received from Netgalley