Goodbye from the Edge of Never is a weird, fun, confusing, and wildly uneven book by first-time writer Steve Mix. Disclosure – I met Steve at Convolution 2014 and he flattered me to bits and gave me a free book, which he signed. So, obviously, I have huge bias in favor of Goodbye, although I also have some bias against it as it’s a horror/action book with a lot of gore and that is not my genre of choice. I’m also aware of the book’s back story, which makes the book far more interesting than it is on its own merits.
Bias aside, I thought this book was a mess, but a fun, interesting, creative mess. Twenty years from now I don’t think Steve will think of this as his best-written book, but I do think he’ll still be writing and publishing, since this first effort shows a lot of promise. We have an interview with Steve coming up tomorrow and you won’t want to miss it, as it contains powerful stuff about brain injury and PTSD.
If you are reading Goodbye, be sure not to skip the foreword. In the foreword, Steve describes the origin of the book. Following nine concussions (as well as PTSD and several other injuries) in the course of military service, he began having dreams about zombies. As he struggled with his own physical and mental healing, he wrote this book as a therapeutic experience. Knowing this puts the book in a different light, particularly the action sequences.
Goodbye features a motley cast of characters who travel California post-zombie-apocalypse. Donathon is a gunslinger, Ashley takes out zombies with her beloved baseball bat, and Mason is an artist who loves pop-culture references. Zombies have mutated in many exciting and bizarre ways and humans have adapted in methods ranging from forming enclaves staffed with slave labor and with traveling raves.
Technically, the writing is awkward. I, for one, would like a complete moratorium on the phrase “lush vegetation”. There’s a running motif of people saying something followed by a careful description of their tone of voice. I have to tell you, dear readers, that the first few times this happened, it was awkward, and by the end of the book, it was annoying as hell. When someone give directions, it is not necessary to follow this by saying that the person spoke in an informative tone. Let the dialogue speak for itself.
Also, this book is written in the “throw in everything cool style. This made for madcap fun, but I didn’t have an opportunity to attach to any of the characters. I never understood what the stakes were (which may have been the point, actually – I may be longing for an end game where the point of the book might be that all you can do is survive day-to-day). Villains appeared out of nowhere, and I didn’t have an emotional investment in the confrontations.
Technical issues and character issues aside, this book survives largely on the basis of “rule of cool”. While reading about someone driving a wheat harvesting combine through a crowd of zombies is extremely gross, I can’t deny that it’s cathartic. In fact, I think you could safely determine whether or not you’ll like the book by assessing your level of interest when I use “wheat harvesting combine” and “zombies” in the same sentence.
There’s some great moments of humor, mostly involving Mason’s obsession with art. There’s some great “Oh yeah!” moments (helloooo combine). There’s also a really haunting, evocative chapter early in the book that describes someone becoming a zombie. As his senses become increasingly distorted, his sense of smell overtakes all his other sense as well as his memory and coordination. It’s this kind of beautiful and insightful writing that makes me think that Steve has a long writing career ahead of him. That and the art jokes, and the combine, which really I just can’t say enough about.
Technical issues aside, I think this book would be a good fit for hardcore horror and zombie fans. Steve is a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, and it shows in the hallucinatory, madcap tone of the book. If you like that kind of hallucinatory, more-is-more writing style, then you’ll like the book. Also gore…so much gore.