Well, it’s been a long time coming, but finally today I have for you a review of the finest book about god-wars and stand up comedy I have read in the whole of this year, Last God Standing by Michael Boatman. I was luckyenough to unexpectedly wrangle a copy for review from Angry Robot books – thanks!
Last God Standing follows everyman and stand-up comedian, Lando Cooper, as he struggles with all the problems inherent in being the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition attempting to reside in a mortal, human guise. As if regular human problems such as nagging parents and relationship dramas weren’t enough, Lando is coming under consistent attack from other disgruntled deities who seem to have tapped into some extra divine power. After being warned about a mysterious being called The Coming who appears to wish Lando and all of humanity nothing but ill, things begin to spin out of control and (human) life as he knows it starts falling apart. How, in His name, is he going to keep his parents and girlfriend happy, save the earth while trapped in a human body AND make it as a stand up comedian without going crazy? Well it ain’t my job to tell you – you’ll have to read the book.
Read it if:
* you have ever felt that you should, in fairness, have been blessed with some kind of divine power in order to make up for the fact that your parents are certifiable – as in, riding around on an ostrich to advertise their small business certifiable
* you’re the type that loves to hop on to any new spiritual fad, while simultaneously denouncing your most recent spiritual fad for screwing up your chi/karma/angel guide dog/spiritual GPS/(insert spiritual-ish term here)
* you have ever thought that awkward, messy or otherwise unsavoury experiences should come with an internal reset function
* you’re the kind of person who lives for the “Boss Battles” in level-grinding games - just to reassure yourself that what you have always suspected about yourself is true – that you are, in fact, a god in the body of a mortal
Alrighty. Last God Standing was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The author, Michael Boatman, is a well known actor who has appeared on many shows that I have not seen. His face is a bit familiar though. Regardless, going into this without any expectations about the sort of comedy he might write was probably a plus I think.
There are a number of things about this book that I really enjoyed – Lando was a really likeable narrator and the other characters in the book are all pretty well fleshed out. There’s also a nice mix of crazy deities and arguably crazier humans that brings a nice bit of variety to the situations that Lando finds himself embroiled in. I particularly liked Lando’s inner voice, Connie (or Constant) who is the representation of a Native American Indian goddess (of the Navajo people, apparently) known as Changing Woman. I admit to having no knowledge whatsoever of Native American Indian deities, of Navajo origin or otherwise, but Boatman’s writing of this particular representation was fun and added a lot to plot twists that would otherwise have seen Lando monologuing a lot about his actions. If you’ve read any of my reviews on Goodreads lately, you’ll know that excessive monologuing is currently one of my pet hates. So a win for Boatman!
I was surprised how much I enjoyed what I’ve termed the Boss Battles in the story. As mentioned, Lando has a number of encounters with deities of once-great religions (Zeus, Dionysus, and even Hannibal – who, while not a deity, does come equipped with a show-stealing quartermastodon named Persi) which involve a lot of action and whacking with sharp weapons and carnage and humiliating defeat. Normally I’m not a big fan of long action sequences in books, but these really drew me in, possibly due to the amusing banter that went on alongside all the hacking and slashing and quartermastodon headbutting and so on.
There were a few things that did drag this down for me. Well, not a few, specifically one thing. And that was the middle of the book. I do not in any way wish to imply that nothing happens, or that the story drags or anything like that in the middle. Essentially, I didn’t like it because things just get weird. A whole lot of stuff started happening that seemed to come out of the blue and unless I applied great focus and concentration while reading, I had a tendency to lose the thread of what was going on. Now towards the end of the middle, this became something of a problem, because there are certain things that happen at this point in the story that directly contribute to the climax. So I found myself having to go back a bit and re-read in order to fully get a handle on the events at the most exciting point of the book. At one point, I even considered putting the book down because it was all getting too confusing….
…BUT I’m glad I didn’t, because I REALLY liked the ending. Somehow, after a spate of weirdness in the middle, things suddenly righted themselves and the last few chapters ended up being really quite exciting. I really enjoyed the reveal – finding out about the nefarious being known as The Coming, finding out who was behind it, who was supporting it, how Lando was going to save us all from some very unpleasant business – and by the end, I didn’t want to put the book down. Again, a win for Boatman!
So while there were a few blips on the “this book isn’t for me” radar, when looking back on it a few weeks after finishing it, I am pleased to find that there is a little feeling of fondness for Last God Standing. In all honesty, I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but if you enjoy a bit of comedy, a bit of divinity, a bit of gratuitous carnage and some general silliness in your reading, I would recommend giving this one a go.
Last God Standing is due for publication on the 25th of March.
Until next time,