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The Oblivion Society
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Oblivion Society is a book of contrasting writing styles. The book jumps from especially gritty realism to what is almost Looney Tunes cartoon, both in setting and in characterization. Unfortunately, instead of blending, they give the book bipolar mood swings. In some situations, the two extremes manage to gel together to take the best of both worlds. In most situations, though, the styles are such polar opposites that it's jarring to see them together.

Out of the two, the setting is the most forgivable. On the gritty realism side, the author has clearly done his homework. Most of the effects of the nuclear devastation can be so realistic that they're almost too gruesome. You can tell that Marcus has a pretty good picture of what he's writing about with such lines as, "A nuclear detonation causes a disc-shaped hydrodynamic front of radially expanding gases in the atmosphere." The depiction of what happened to the two people they find in the store is unnerving in its specificity. And then against that backdrop, you have radiation causing effects straight out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The characters themselves say that some of what happens violates the laws of biology and physics. I cannot suspend my belief enough to include what is essentially Godzilla when the author has gone to so much effort to present the nuclear disaster in such great detail.

That's not to say that the setting is entirely believable even when it tries for realism. The characters drive for over a thousand miles, as far as I can tell, and they find nothing. Apparently every single thing has been destroyed for one thousand miles, except for the highway and a gas station. Either that or none of the characters find anything worth mentioning in the devastated, smoking remains of the entire United States. The destruction is so complete that there aren't even any cars on the highway. They never appear to run into traffic jams from when the drivers of the cars were killed. Then again, they manage to drive for over a thousand miles of highway without ever needing to find an alternate route, so maybe the destruction wasn't that bad.

Where the styles really contrast enough to make the book schizophrenic is the characters. Almost every single person aside from the main characters is a caricature so removed from humanity that they would make Dickens proud. Especially noteworthy is Mr. Boltzmann, the owner of the grocery store Vivian works at during the start of the book. He could pass for a twin of Scrooge, if it weren't for the fact that he apparently ripped his brain from his ear and beat himself with it for years on end until he was much more stupid than Homer Simpson. Every single time he appears in the book, he makes you think that he's so stupid that he couldn't tie his own shoes without accidentally strangling a small town. Any humor that could be found in his character is lost because you cannot relate to him in any way, because Mr. Boltzmann is not a human; he is one of the most overblown caricatures I have ever read.

For several chapters, you get the feeling that the author has absolutely no sense of subtlety. Everything that could possibly go wrong, ever, happens to Vivian. Except for the main characters, she is surrounded by non-dimensional 'characters'. And then, out of the blue, one of the caricatures steps out into the light and becomes fully human. Yes, he is pretty over the top, but that's how he makes a living. Yes, he acts like a sleazebag a lot of the time, but then you see that he actually does care about people. His views on life seem fundamentally opposed to Vivian's, but you take a second look and you realize that he actually has his life together pretty well. It's really a very good piece of character development, and even though he is quickly absent from the rest of the story, you get the idea that maybe the writer knows how to write likable characters.

...and then you meet one of the people who later becomes a main character. His entire personality is that he hits on every girl, ever. That is all he does. Every time he says something, it's a bad pickup line. And every single time, he gets rejected, ignored, hurt, or told to go to hell. He spends chapter after chapter doing nothing but this, even when it is has failed EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Almost immediately after the nuclear holocaust, he starts hitting on people that would make almost anyone want to vomit (see the gritty realism of the setting). Nothing deters him. Everything he's ever seen and everyone he's ever known has just been vaporized, and that does not faze him in the least. I do not say this lightly, but his constant, unceasing, gigawatt laser focus on picking up girls makes him as annoying as Jar Jar Binks.

Well, 95% of the time. Like I've said, the writing changes are completely jarring. His character is a Christian (he just hits on girls because of the command to "be fruitful and multiply", for what that's worth). He's a coward (until after the danger has passed and he tries to spin it as bravery, despite lying poorly enough that the blind person can see through him). At one or two times, he actually takes an unpopular stand, *even siding against girls.*

But moments like those are few and far between. As the book goes on, his constant attempts to beat the reader to death with his libido become more and more draining. I told myself I'd keep reading until the end on the basis of the few really good moments, but I'm losing my will power. The book is so over the top in everything it tries to do that I'm not sure I can make it to the end

EDIT: I did make it to the end. I wish I hadn't, because the ending is even worse than the middle. After some driving, some fighting, and a few sputtering attempts at character developments, Marcus decides to go full out with the ending. "Make everything gigantic! Add some bad Bond one liners! An explosion or two! Throw in some hilarious sexual assault too! Don't worry about the tone of the rest of the book, just put it all in there!" It's 13 year old Jerry Bruckheimer's secret dreams. The only thing more embarrassing than the sudden sexual obscenity was how completely pointless and out of place it was.

If you're looking for cheap, balls to the walls pulp, this isn't THE worst book in the world. If you want anything else, avoid this book
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'll admit that I'm not too much of a book person, so it's not easy for me to digest reading anything, much less 363 pages of anything. Oblivion Society managed to capture and hold my attention through five people's journey through one post-apocalyptic nightmare. The characters are well-developed in a subtle yet important fashion from the beginning to the end. Hart's attention to detail evidences itself throughout. His claim to fame may well be his generously-scattered, late-nineties, pop-culture references, which come in quantities closely approximating a treasure trove for geeks. The humor in this book is mostly laugh-out-loud clever, with the occasionally obvious roll-your-eyes pun thrown in for good measure. Such humorous posturing is a welcome comic relief in contrast to the circumstances of the book.

Oblivion does a good job of describing in great detail the surprising transformations that occur. It's impossible to give examples without spoiling the book. Hart provides such phenomenal word pictures of events that you've never seen, you may actually believe you've witnessed them.

The book does have a fault, in that the first three chapters tend to drag out and make the book seem longer than it is. This stigma, however, does not extend into the fourth chapter and the pace is justified for the remainder. Still, even with the slow beginning, the groundwork for the rest of the book is well laid and the investment of the reader's time is a small price for such a great reading investment.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm not really a science fiction person. Reading "The Oblivion Society" was the literary equivalent of the astonished and exhilarated feeling you get after your fervent sci-fi friends drag you to the latest cult classic and you find yourself earnestly enjoying it. This book has the intensely caricatured characters of a superhero comic, the spine-tingling suspense of a horror film, and the explosive special effects of a top-budget adventure, all mixed up in a sincere and original drama... and it works! Vivian Gray is an inadvertently alluring lead heroine and her friends set you laughing from start to finish - the only infallible way to take a sojourn from reading your copy of this book will be to loan it to a friend! (You might not get it back.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I really did enjoy reading this book. Having read John Dies at the End by David Wong, I was eager to dive into another end-of-the-world farce. And Marcus Alexander Hart definetly delivered. However...there were some times when I began skimming just so I could finish this book.
Vivian Gray, a supermarket cashier/stocker, and her somewhat lazy mooching brother, Bobby, his bestfriend, Erik, Vivian's co-worker, Sherri, and some random douche that Bobby met at his favorite bar, Trent, are the only survivors of the nuclear holocaust that destroyed their city of Stillwater, Florida. As they set out on their wacky adventure, in search of other survivors and cities that may have escaped the carnage, they encounter the true extent of the unintentional nuclear war.
I got several laughs, a couple of grunts of annoyance, and a few scowls of disbelief from this very funny story. Marcus Hart did a very good job in fleshing out his story and characters-- the only problem with the latter is that he seemed to stick with what he started out with.
The book is more character driven than plot driven, which is great, only that, the characters don't seem to change much (other than physically) from where they started out at. Rather than go through each of the main characters I'll just pick out the one that was so outlandishly unchanged by the end of the story-- despite all that the group had gone through and all that had happened to him and all that he had seen-- it made my stomach hurt with the sheer stupidity of it.
Trent; the douche in the bar. In an effort not to give too much of the story away, I'll just say that when he's first introduced he's portrayed as being a poseur who has no self-awareness and an apparent identity crisis. By the end of the book, he is STILL a poseur with no self-awareness, now entrenched in his identity crisis, and THE most obnoxious and unrealistic character I have ever read. The man just saw the human population descimated and witnessed things that should have made him ball up into a fetal position and yet, STILL, all he can think about is doing one of the girls in the group. Are you serious?!
My other gripe about the book is the style.
I liked the story, I liked the story structure, and despite the apparent faults with some of the character development, I still liked the characters and their interactions with each other, but the way it was put across could have used some serious self-editing.
The author clearly loves adjectives and different ways of saying simple things. Now, I'm paraphrasing, but for example: Instead of simply saying "the deserted road ended at the edge of a crater" he wrote something like "the desolate road terminated at the yawning mouth of the scorched topography of the disintegrating state of Florida."
Can we just keep this simple? Can we just write what we see and not get clever and metaphoric and widesweeping in our descriptions to the point that no one knows what's being described anymore. Can we just say, "the deserted road ended at the edge of a crater?"
I love wonderful prose that evokes a crystal clear image, but if I have to go back over that sentence, or paragraph, or whole page just to figure out what the HELL is happening, we've got problems. And the worst part is that this lovely little gimmick wasn't used sparingly but abundantly and with vigor THROUGH THE ENTIRE BOOK.
Overall...I really did enjoy the book. I did care about the characters and I did want to know what was going to happen to them because the things that happened were so humorous and so off-the-wall. But on the technicality of the writing... this book truly deserves three and half stars. But I would definitely read it again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I have to admit, I did get hooked into this book, and read it pretty fast, which is what I think most authors generally want - the reader to be interested. And some parts of it were absolutely great, especially the moments of realism and some of the character development early on. Unfortunately, the writing is really, really spotty. There are characters so jarringly one note that I tended to skim any paragraphs they were in because I was so tired of their particular 'joke'. There are gaping plot holes that are not even addressed. And while the crazy mutations didn't bother me the way they did some other reviewers, since they seemed mostly there for laughs, they just got dumb at the end, as though the author ran out of ideas.

I think what this book could have really used was a good editor. Someone to point out the great ideas, suggest they get expanded upon, but who also shakes the author a bit and reminds him that the same joke done fifty times does not actually make it funnier.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2009
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I bought this primarily because of the many 5 star reviews and it serves me right. While large parts of the book are very funny, it is sort of like a 6 year old telling the same joke over and over because they got a big laugh the first time; they don't understand the 'Funny Once' concept. By the end it dawned on me that what the author really wanted to do is put out a graphic novel but either can't draw or did know anyone who could. The descriptions are very graphic, but would look a lot better than they read. The book is one action sequence after another and in the end. . .well, it just ends. That works for graphic novels, but not so much for the written word. Amusing, but I wish I had my money back.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I bought this only because of Wong's forward. As a big fan of John Dies, I guess I was hoping for something similar. I thought the writing lacked a lot. I'm no critic and I don't mean to say that the book sucks, it's a "cute" read. I enjoyed the humor at times. I'm just saying that if you're hoping for this to read like John Dies at the End, you may be disappointed.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2010
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Based on many of the other reviews and 5-star ratings, I either have wildly different standards or the author had a lot of friends and relatives who chimed in. I like the story idea, but every character was so obnoxious or such a complete moron that there was nobody to root for. I couldn't force myself past the first chapter so I can only imagine that any zombies ultimately starve to death from a lack of available brains to eat.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a great time. Post-apocalyptic fun. A tale of heroism, ingenuity, love and mutation in radioactive turn of the millennium America

Marcus Alexander Hart is a master of character and dialogue, as well as being deeply steeped in both pop culture and hard core geek lore. His world is populated by well conceived, believable people whose strengths and weaknesses make them both unique and real, and he gives a respectful nod to the great examples of the horror, disaster and science fiction genre.

"The Oblivion Society" is a smart, hip, fun, ride through our worst cold war nightmares.

Read it today. You won't be able to put it down.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is quite possibly the worst book I've ever read. It tries so hard to be geeky that every other sentence has some geek filled saying or reference; complete overkill. Do we really need to hear the argument about what constitutes a zombie vs. a mutant six times? I don't think so. In the few moments the characters step aside from the geeky overkill, their exchanges are bland and awful. None of the characters manages to escape their stereotype of: geeky girl, goth girl, geeky guy, 70's era Casanova. I don't understand the point of any of the political text and why exactly was Clinton's affair with Monica relevant to the plot line? The ending was pointless.
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