Are there dark days coming? I don't think so …

Apocalypse Next Tuesday by David Safier

A bestseller in Germany, Safier’s novel, translated by Hilary Parnfors, got me interested within a few words of the press release in which it told how Satan, who has come back to Earth as a dead ringer for George Clooney, is recruiting horsemen for the apocalypse next week.

Gorgeous, soon-to-be-married-and-thus-no-longer-available-for-us-me, George? Nooo! But you must admit that’s one hell of a hook for a contemporary comic novel about Armageddon, guaranteed to pique the interest of readers of both sexes.  You know how it’s going to go from the first paragraph, in which we meet Marie…

There’s no way that Jesus can have looked like that, I thought to myself as I sat in the parish office staring at the painting of the Last Supper. He was a Levantine Jew, wasn’t he? So why did he look like a Bee Gee in most of the pictures?

Marie, a single, overweight thirty-something has gone to discuss her forthcoming nuptials to Sven with the Reverend Gabriel. Gabriel is challenging her desire to get married in church because he thinks she doesn’t believe enough. ‘You were already doubting God during confirmation class twenty years ago,’ he quipped.

Marie definitely believes in the free will approach to the Almighty, unlike her atheist sister, Kata who is a cartoonist and draws a regular strip chronicling their sibling life. Kata’s cute philosophical cartoons crop up throughout the novel, whenever there is a big question to be asked.

When Marie has a crisis of faith and jilts Sven at the altar, she retreats home to her father’s house, where her Dad’s new even-younger-than-Marie, Belarusian bride Svetlana is in place. Everyone else is happy except her, and she hates Svetlana. She moaned: ‘I was now officially a M.O.N.S.T.E.R. (i.e. Majorly Old with No Spouse, Tots, Energy or Resources).’  As if to confirm this, the roof falls in on her, literally.

However, her life will change with the arrival of a thirty-something carpenter come to make the repairs called Joshua. ‘The carpenter’s gentle, dark brown eyes seemed very serious, as if they’d already seen a thing or two.’ Yup, you’ve guessed it. It’s the Messiah, returned to Earth to thwart Satan and reclaim Earth for God. Joshua hand’t reckoned on arriving in a little town in Germany though, let alone meeting a third rather outspoken and tomboyish Mary in his life.

What follows is one of those When Harry Met Sally type of romances, with added Satan doing nasty things in the background.  Joshua has a lot of wising-up to do to exist in the 21st century – being nice isn’t good enough. Marie finds herself falling for this old soul, and their one step forward, two steps back relationship is rather charming.  I’ll refer you to the Book of Revelations for an idea of how it all might end …

I did enjoy this book a lot, but I don’t think it was entirely successful as a comedy. Although I’m a non-believer, I did like the way it didn’t make fun of Jesus or God, just the situations they were in, but there wasn’t enough of Satan. He could have been more like Bulgakov’s devil, whipping up the townspeople more, creating more obstacles for Marie and Joshua to overcome. Instead he was mostly absent in the middle of the book, and just left them to get on with it.

The novel is set in a small town in Germany and, like the Asterix books, all the German idioms and references have been translated into the appropriate English ones. Sometimes this jarred a little; Marie would comment for instance, ‘There seemed to be more sex and crime in this book [the bible] than on Channel 5.’  There were many pop music references but I suspect that many, if not most of them, also appear in the German.

I found this novel chucklesome rather than laugh out loud, (unlike the wonderful Rev Diaries) but it would make a diverting summer holiday read. (7/10)

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Source: Publisher – Thank you. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Apocalypse Next Tuesday by David Safier, pub May 2014 by Hesperus Press, paperback 272 pages.

6 thoughts on “Are there dark days coming? I don't think so …

  1. Col says:

    The world is full of great coincidence! As I read your post on the Central Line there’s a woman opposite me reading a magazine – with George on the cover! Sounds as if idea of book is funnier than book itself! Even so, can’t get George / Satan connection out of my head so will get off at Stratford just in case!!!!!!!!

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      The idea of the book was indeed hilarious, especially when God appears as Emma Thompson (which I didn’t mention in the review) – which might help you get George out of your mind one way or another!

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Sounds appealing but as if the idea was better than the execution. And if you’ve got Satan in a book, you really need to make the most of him! And I agree with your point about translations – if I’m reading a book set in Germany, I want the references to be to German stuff so I feel like I’m in Germany, not England!!

  3. farmlanebooks says:

    I read Safier’s first book (Bad Karma) and LOVED it. I was crying with laughter and wish I could persuade more people to try it. I was really excited about this one, but for some reason it didn’t work for me. It barely even made me smile. Perhaps it is the religious element? I’m not religious either and that might be the reason I didn’t get it? It just didn’t strike a chord with me. I recommend you try Bad Karma instead 🙂

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      I’m not religious (these days – I did have a phase in my teens!), but do find myself drawn to novels that take on Christianity like David Maine’s The Flood which I rather adored, and The Rev Diaries, and am a fan of Jesus Christ Superstar and the ilk, so I wanted this to be better than it was too. Now I think about it, I don’t think the cartoons helped… I’ll definitely look out for Bad Kharma though.

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