A compelling, addictive post-apocalyptic novel with satirical elements, The Odyssey of Fletcher (Erik Dargitz, Edderkoppen Press, 2023) is wholly entertaining for those who like post-apocalyptic stories that take a little jab at contemporary society.
After a global virus seemingly wipes out the entire male population, a skinny, socially awkward, self-conscious video game junkie is somehow still kicking. And he’s wildly unprepared for this new world. Out there waiting for him are physicians who want to study him, a cult of spiritual extremists who want to deify him and brutal gangs with far more nefarious intentions. Throughout his journey, Fletcher does his best to act like a real man, being that he’s the only one around. Unfortunately, this only leads to more problems … for him and humanity.
Erik Dargitz’s debut novel is a satirical post-apocalyptic tale about the last man on Earth-who also might be the last man you’d pick for the job.
Taking in the book as a whole, it’s a realism-based novel that is well-balanced between its comedic and entertainment value. The story kept me wanting to read more, even when Fletcher did things that made me want to shake him.
I read Fletcher as not only a well-developed character, but a comment on the societal pressures put on men from all angles – all the aspects that define their sense of self-worth. Fletcher is a whiny, lazy, unhealthy brat of a young man at the start of the novel, and I will admit he was kind of annoying – but I think that was the point; his problems (aside from the virus, of course) come from his inability to take ownership for not only his mistakes due to his low self-esteem brought on by years of being teased as a teenager. In truth, he could be almost any young man. As such, he’s so worried about how others perceive him that he doesn’t stop to think about the person he wants to be, and then, when he does obtain a little bit of power, he does what he thinks will bring him gratification – what the world has been selling to him as his greatest desire – only to find it falls flat. His desire to have his cake and eat it too, his entitlement that develops, is something I think is something we see in a lot of young people today.
Yet, in the same vein, Fletcher is young – he’s twenty-two when the story starts, so I think the novel would have been quite different had he been in his thirties or older. The fact that he is inexperienced in the world makes the novel a coming-of-age story as well as a satire. Fletcher learns from his mistakes – this is not the story of an unredeemable jerk. It’s the story of a young man who could have become one.
This message is not didactic, though – in fact, I’m sure there are other interpretations – as the main gist of the story is Fletcher’s life in the post-virus world. I will say while I would like to think a women-only world wouldn’t be post-apocalyptic, at least not forever, the setting was realistic and understandable. In fact, the book does contain the post-apocalyptic trope that I love, which is small areas of civilization with different governmental styles and takes on how society should be run. I’m not going to spoil them, though I will say I wish the first place he goes (it is an odyssey, after all) had a little less focus, and we saw a few more of the other societies. The depictions of these other places were well-shaped, and while we’ve seen iterations of them before, they were fun and interesting. I did have some residual questions about the world-building, but those were more after the fact.
The writing style is excellent. Aside from when it slows down a little a third of the way through, the pacing is great and the dialogue is snappy. The narrative voice is distinctive and easy to follow, and it’s compulsively readable. It’s a lot of fun!
The book has a lot of layers and is a deft comment on society today, but using societal collapse as its vehicle. And, not one of these vehicles:
but more like this one:
You can find The Odyssey of Fletcher on Amazon, as well as various indie booksellers.