Last God Standing, by Michael Boatman

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Publication date – March 25, 2014

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) When God decides to quit and join the human race to see what all the fuss is about, all Hell breaks loose.

Sensing his abdication, the other defunct gods of Earth’s vanquished pantheons want a piece of the action He abandoned.

Meanwhile, the newly-humanised deity must discover the whereabouts and intentions of the similarly reincarnated Lucifer, and block the ascension of a murderous new God.

How is he ever going to make it as a stand-up comedian with all of this going on…?

Thoughts: What if God was one of us? (Oh come on, you really didn’t see that song title coming with a concept like this? I’m just surprised it didn’t get mentioned in the book itself!) The god of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion is living a mortal life, as are most of the gods from various pantheons through humanity’s history. Yahweh, in this case, is a black stand-up comedian named Lando, who hails from a tremendously effed-up family. Lando would be pretty content to go through life as a normal guy, without any divine issues getting in the way of things, but other gods seem to have different ideas and are bent on revenge for past slights and sins. Add in the fact that these attacks on Lando seem to be part of a plan by some unknown and newly-emerging god for the modern age, and Lando finds himself in over his head in more ways than one.

Boatman gets serious kudos for taking the basic concept behind this book and running with it to places that others often wouldn’t. I’m sure there are some people out there who read this and were ticked off that God was a black guy who makes a living by being rather absurd on stage, or that all the myths are true and that all prior deities from other religions are just as real (and often just as corporeal and real and yet still divine) as the God of Christianity (and Judaism, and Islam). Which says more about them than about the book, really, but I mention it to show that Boatman clearly isn’t afraid to buck trends and go against the status quo just because it might anger people with a narrow-worldview. And there’s a strong vein of humour running through the novel, as can be expected given that it’s told from the first-person viewpoint of a stand-up comic. Keen observation and wit is the order of the day, and there’s plenty of opportunity for it seeing as how there are so many twisted characters, human and divine alike. It’s an extremely diverse cast of characters that Boatman brings to the table.

Part of the problem is the general lack of tension expressed when it comes to divine battles. On pages where two deities are fighting it out and reality is getting warped and twisted as an effect, I figure I should be able to feel something. But no matter how often those scenes occurred, the most I felt was confused, since Lando himself seemed more concerned with witty retorts and insults to make his opponent angry than he did with how the world is twisting around him. It seems odd to complain about how unrealistically unreality was presented, but with distanced narration and scattered commentary on what was essentially the laws of physics and perception getting thrown out the window, it made it hard to feel anything from those scenes.

Especially when it gets obvious quickly that the scenes have no actual lasting effect, since Lando can just wipe out the time and set reality back to rights again. No consequences, and so no threat.

Oddly, the parts of the novel that felt most developed to me were the ones that centred around Lando’s mundane mortal life. Issues with his (incredibly gorgeous and self-assured) rich girlfriend and her family. Trying to please his parents. Watching his mother fall prey to a charismatic cult. These pieces of he story were fascinating, and stranger in many ways than the parts about divinity. Secondary to that was the section of the book in which Lando finds himself in an alternate reality, one with a history very different from our own, and that was well put together and detailed and so fascinating that I could have read an entire novel set in that reality and been perfectly happy with it. It was a shame to me that it was such a short part of the book and so near the end.

In many ways, it felt like the characters relied on their extreme diversity in place of any real development. I can give you a dozen descriptive words and labels for some of the characters, and with maybe 2 exceptions, none of the characters were actually deeper than those labels. It was as though readers were getting little more than an overview of them, and the diversity was a bit of a fake-out, a way of making characters seem deeper and more nuanced than they really were.

Last God Standing played with some very interesting concepts and ideas and was nicely thought-provoking at times, but it was sporadic and uneven, and that was the novel’s real downfall. It had some great visual promise, the kind of thing that would actually make for a great film, but the presentation as a novel didn’t do the trick for me, and in spite of the promise that it held I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. Worth a read, and it will probably stimulate some discussions on the nature of reality and divinity, but as with many of the characters, the surface was barely scratched and the ideas don’t get too deep. Good for light reading and when you’re in the mood for fast and snappy dialogue with a good sense of wit and levity, but if you’re looking for something more, you’re not likely to find it here.

(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)

3 comments on “Last God Standing, by Michael Boatman

  1. I like hearing that he includes other divine entities as real people. Bucking trends is a brave thing indeed. I should be reading this one anytime. I hope I enjoy it.

  2. Pingback: March in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

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