Pros: Fascinating nearly-stream-of-consciousness style
Cons: At times confusing
Rating: 4 out of 5
Partholon is by D. Krauss. An “Event” has killed most people in the U.S., and John Rashkil–ex-campus security officer and ex-cop–has taken it upon himself to fortify and protect his lonely little part of the city. Being a somewhat paranoid figure (after all, it isn’t paranoia if they’re really after you), he does things like turn his yard into a field of claymores. Most of the time he zips along in a little scooter, trying not to get noticed by any of the dangerous groups out there. He’s very satisfied by his setup should anyone come to get him. In the meantime, he has regularly-scheduled calls with Collier, his son who’s involved in the Army in some way.
I’m not sure how I feel about the dragging out of the details of “The Event”. The narrative comes together around it later, but at first it’s just this weird mystery. I would have liked at least a little more information on it. It’s the ‘killer flu’ variant of the apocalypse, which primarily matters in how it affects the preparations people make, as well as what they’re willing to do depending on how scarcely occupied the city is.
The narrative style is talkative, garrulous, almost a stream-of-consciousness sort of thing, coming from John’s point of view. It isn’t a style I normally go for, but I thought it worked in Partholon. It did take me a little while to get into it, though. I love that while John’s human friends are few and far between, most of his companionship comes in the form of dogs: Hairbag and Lupus run free but come back for food; Snuffy is largely an indoor dog. Despite his desolate part of the city, he comes up with ways to keep himself from going totally mad. There seems to be some limited amount of phone calling available; John’s calls with his son Collier help to give Collier at least a little bit of hope.
To be clear–John is absolutely a racist figure, using epithets like “towel-heads”. I never felt like it was the author standing on a soapbox and speaking through John; it felt like a legitimate part of John’s character. (At least I sincerely hope that’s all it is.)
It took me a while to figure out what the deal was with Collier, and some of the other groups in town. Of course, in a bio-kill you have to wonder why it is that the nice people seem to get disproportionately killed. (Or maybe it’s just a statement arguing that even nice people will go bad if you put them under pressure. That’s one thing John didn’t seem to philosophize over.) As it is, John does a lot of philosophizing about the event, the people he knows, the future that’s coming. Somehow Krauss makes that philosophizing interesting. Partholon may not be my favorite post-apocalypse story, but John’s point of view makes it better than many I’ve read.