October 14, 2013

An Apocalypse in the Key of Z: a review of Anthony J. Rapino's "Soundtrack to the End of the World"

Soundtrack to the End of the World
264 pages

What if the world ended not with a roar, but with a whimper? Better than that, what if the world ended with a wicked guitar solo? In Anthony J. Rapino's debut novel, Soundtrack to the End of the World, the apocalypse arises through, of all things, music.

Marty Raft is a big, burly, lovable lug. Already depressed over the untimely deaths of his parents, he finds out his college mentor, Dr. Pepper, died months ago from cancer. To help him out, his best friend and hack comic, Corey, sets him up to meet with an aura reader, even though Raft doesn't buy into that hippy dippy sh*t. He's instantly attracted to Naomi, the not-so-hippy reader, but doesn't have a lot of time to follow up on that when things start turning weird around town. And weird just turns to worldwide panic, as a new out-of-body experience craze hitting the underground night club scene appears to be responsible for a full-blown zombie apocalypse.

If you want to see the world go to hell in a handbasket, Anthony J. Rapino has invented a pretty original way to go about it. I think the closest thing I can compare this premise to is the Tony Burgess novel, Pontypool Changes Everything, but that novel has a much more claustrophobic setting for its mayhem. Soundtrack starts small and just gets bigger with each chapter. The pacing is a little slow at first, but in so doing the characters are fleshed out really well, and the budding relationship between Raft and Naomi amid the chaos helps drive the story.

Calling Soundtrack a zombie novel may be a bit misleading, though. It is certainly the kind of novel that should appeal to readers with a voracious appetite for zombie fiction, but it definitely doesn't follow the guidelines of your standard zombie story. The mystery behind what exactly is causing people to behave the way they do, and how Raft and his small band of survivors work to keep alive, offer their own twists that started quirky enough and just turned downright extraordinary leading into the climactic end. That's a good sign when veering into such often-visited territory like the end of the world.

Aside from the occasional hiccup, Rapino is off to a strong start with this debut effort. And in keeping with the music theme, Soundtrack marches to its own blood-soaked drumbeat. 

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