Review: Last God Standing / Author: Michael Boatman / Publisher: Angry Robot Books / Release Date: March 25th
Novels in which the gods walk amongst us have become increasingly common recently, so much so that this particular subgenre is enjoying a period of intense reinvention and innovation. This has had some very pleasing results, but sadly Last God Standing is not one of them.
The plot focuses on an African American man called Lando Cooper (named after the Star Wars character of a similar name.) Lando is a stand-up comedian who’s day job is working for his father. His personal life is fraught with problems, his family seem pretty strange and his girlfriend is still waiting for that proposal of marriage. On top of all that, Lando is also the mortal incarnation of Jahweh, the God of the Christian faith and it’s his job to keep a lid on the shenanigans of all the other gods. Especially as there appears to be a new deity in town, one who could upset the current order of things.
Boatman’s writing style is messy and anarchic. Though this works well for some set scenes, most of the time it’s a hindrance. The tone switches from comic to action-adventure then to polemic followed by another comic scene. The transitions are not smooth and this leaves the reader confused and a little bored. Worse still, the book seems desperate in it’s desire to lecture the reader but can’t decide whether to use subtext and theme to deliver it’s message or simply have the protagonist think out loud for a bit. Boatman opts for both, making the work even more disjointed.
They are some strong ideas in Last God Standing, especially relating to the various faces of the divine, but they’re buried under a poorly executed narrative. The book feels underdeveloped and poorly planned. A lot of dramatic tension is boiled out due to the central character being God; the author has to constantly look for reasons to explain why the protagonist simply doesn’t snap his fingers, and this really does diffuse a lot of the fun. It’s hard to shake the feeling that there is a clever and radical tale somewhere here, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be quite worth digging in to find it.