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Soft Apocalypse Paperback – April 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this moving debut from Hugo-winner McIntosh, the prosperous world of 2023 ends not with a bang but with a crackle, the sound of genetically engineered bamboo growing overnight and destroying roads and buildings. Naïve college graduate Jasper struggles to trade charged batteries for food as his "tribe" wanders the Georgia countryside, dodging local cops and designer diseases. Settling in Savannah, they try to find some stability in a crumbling city beset by anarchist gangs and the "scientist-rebels" who release tailored organisms to hasten societal collapse. In the end, each member of the tribe must decide what to give up in order to survive. The novel, expanded from a short story, shows some unevenness in tone, but McIntosh strongly delineates his characters and makes Jasper's struggles very affecting. Though it may be soft, this apocalypse has plenty of sharp edges. (Apr.)
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Bottom line: If Soft Apocalypse isn't nominated for a Hugo or Nebula Award, I will eat the entire book page by page...
--Paul Goat Allen

(McIntosh) has written a first novel that's compelling, credible, and relentless, who's best and most disturbing moments will stay with the reader for a long time. --Locus

McIntosh's first novel is a grim glimpse into a future that is not all that improbable...This is the sort of thoughtful sociological SF we see too seldom today--the kind of work Pohl and Kornbluth did in the 1950s. Well worth a read.
     -Peter Heck, Asimov's

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; First edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781597802765
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597802765
  • ASIN: 159780276X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Will McIntosh is a science fiction and young adult author, a Hugo award winner and a winner or finalist for twelve other SF awards. His novel Defenders was optioned by Warner Brothers for a feature film, while Love Minus Eighty, about women trapped in a cryogenic dating center, was named the best science fiction book of 2013 by the American Library Association, and was on both and's lists of the best SF novels of 2013. Will has also published about fifty short stories in zines like Asimov's, Lightspeed, and Science Fiction and Fantasy: Best of the Year. He was a psychology professor before turning to writing full-time, and still teaches part time at The College of William and Mary. Originally from New York, he now lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife and their seven year-old twins. He collects comic art and autographed classic rock albums, is a lifelong New York Yankees fan, and a movie fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @willmcintoshSF, or on his website,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Stefan VINE VOICE on April 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Jasper and his tribe of formerly middle class Americans describe themselves as nomadic rather than homeless: they travel around the Southeastern U.S., scraping together the bare minimum to survive by spreading out solar blankets or placing small windmills by the highway to collect energy from passing cars, then trading the filled fuel cells for food. Fewer and fewer people want to deal with the "gypsies" who use up dwindling resources, and often they meet with indifference or even violence. Jasper was a sociology major, but those skills are no longer in demand in 2023, about ten years after an economic depression set off the Great Decline and society as we know it gradually began to fall apart. So begins Will McIntosh's excellent debut novel, Soft Apocalypse.

One of the most interesting aspects of Soft Apocalypse, and something I've rarely seen done so well in a dystopian novel, is the fact that it shows society in the early stages of dissolution. Many post-apocalyptic stories show a finished end product, an established dystopia in which the Earth has already been torn apart and people are trying to survive the aftermath. Other stories show the events right before and during the actual earthquake/meteor strike/plague, with people trying to make it through the disaster as it happens. Soft Apocalypse instead happens during a period of gradual but inexorable decline: as the back cover says, the world ends "with a whimper instead of a bang." If Robert Charles Wilson's excellent Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd America is set in post-collapse U.S.A., when enough time has passed for society to fall back into established structures and classes, Soft Apocalypse could almost be set in the same world, but a couple of centuries earlier and during the gradual collapse of the previous system.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Alberto Vargas VINE VOICE on May 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved this book because it is one of the best disaster and post-apocalyptic novels. Most of them tend to describe some sudden and drastic disaster (plague, comet, bomb, whatever) and how humanity copes afterwards. What makes this novel different, fresh, and interesting, is that it considers the different and more likely scenario that human civilization will slowly collapse under the weight of overpopulation, increasing scarcity of natural resources (like oil), and derivative causes like famine, disease, and criminal breakdown of social order. Although such a scenario seems slow and mundane, the author manages to actually make it very vivid through the eyes of the narrator and interesting cultural vignettes.

The novel is set in and around Savannah, Georgia, in the late 2020s through 2030s. It features a mix of all elements you could possibly expect in a novel about the collapse of civilization: global warming, peak oil, epidemics (with human-designed viruses), rampant gangs, curfews, breakdown of large organizations, genocide, propaganda, fringe groups forcefully pushing various agendas, guns, gold, nomads, urban tribes, civil war, and so forth. There are even some romantic and sexual relationships to keep just about any reader interested :) Overall, the mood in the book is grim. The future world starts recognizably similar to our society, except that most amenities are gone from common people's lives, out of reach of anyone but the wealthy. Unemployment, poverty, and crime are rampant. The way people live, travel, feed and entertain themselves, is not nearly as easy and pleasant as today. There is a sense of profound loss: from major characters who gradually leave or die to the mere lack of what we today consider normalcy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Clark Hallman on July 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh, which is based on a previously published short story by McIntosh, is a very frightening book about the end of civilization as we know it. The most frightening aspect of the book is that this apocalypse is precipitated not by environmental or science-gone-wrong scenarios, but by an economic collapse and succeeding depression and then the social chaos that follows. The story begins in 2023 as we experience the life of our protagonist, Jasper. He and his tribe are jobless and homeless, as are millions of other people. The tribe scrapes by selling whatever services and goods they can provide, just as other tribes do the same. Although there are still wealthy people, who have jobs and homes, the vast majority of people are homeless and struggling to survive. This downtrodden class are shunned and persecuted by those who are better off. Although Jasper eventually gets a job in a convenience store and some other members of his tribe also find menial employment, the situation for all classes of people continues to decline. Unfortunately, the dire situation is exacerbated by social movements that believe the only way for society to recover from this downward spiral is to create chaos and severely decrease Earth's population by engineering the deaths of billions of people. The story follows Jasper's struggles to cope with increasing starvation, disease, and violence. It also focuses on his attempts to maintain his humanity and caring relationships with others in a world that offers no succor and little hope. Jasper and his tribe are resilient and determined to continue to survive while searching for a better life. This is a very grim tale that extrapolates real problems and concerns about our civilization to a catastrophic result that could be disturbing to many readers. I found it to be a very engaging story and I recommend it strongly.
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