The Last Weekend, by Nick Mamatas, is billed as a novel of “zombies, booze, and power tools,” which may be the truthiest bit of truth in advertising that ever was. This sucker is chock full of all three, and each are at the core of Billy Kostopolos’s world and, to a degree, his identity.
The Last Weekend is told in first-person, so we get to know Billy pretty well (whether we like it or not). Billy is a haughty writer and alcoholic who hides his many insecurities behind choice phrases he has memorized from literature, lobbing out quotes from Shakespeare and Charles Bukowski in an effort to impress and/or alienate those around him. To put it simply, Billy’s pretty much a jackass. After being scorned by his girlfriend, he’s fled west to San Francisco without much in the way of advanced planning beyond drinking himself to death. He just so happens to wake up hungover one morning in the midst of the zombie apocalypse and decides to become a particular brand of city employee known as a driller. With supplies short, drillers are equipped with, naturally enough, power drills to destroy the brains of the infected. Even though he’s mostly waiting to die, Billy is still a writer first-and-foremost, and he chases experiences in order to give his words weight, and there’s not much weightier in the world anymore than running a drill bit through some old lady’s brain pan.
Like all really good zombie stories, this book is not about the zombies per se. True, the zombies provide plenty of impetus for action and reaction, but they’re largely set dressing to gussy up the plot. The real story here is Billy and the society he lives in, as people are forced to reconnect and survive in a post-apocalyptic world of sorts (America, we learn early on, is the only country affected by this plague of the undead). Mamatas has lots to say about the nature and struggles of being a writer, as well as alcoholism and depression. This all gets wrapped up in a dark sheen of cynical, black humor, occasional bouts of wicked violence, and an interesting detour through the history of the 49ers gold rush, SanFran cemeteries and burial rites.
Narrator Kevin T. Collins delivers a terrific performance with his narration, hitting all the right alternating beats of insecure and sanctimonious to bring Billy to life. Billy may not always be the ideal protagonist to spend eight hours with, but Collins makes this an easily enjoyable listen and serves Mamatas’s material quite well. The production quality is top-notch, and the audio is clean.
The Last Weekend is an easy book to recommend for horror fans looking for a more literary ride through zombie-town, or maybe just for those who thought Leaving Las Vegas needed a good dose of the undead and power tools. I suspect, though, that if there are any other authors giving this a listen, some of the material may hit uncomfortably close. Now, if you’ll excuse me, after having spent a few days in the company of one Billy Kostopolos, I think I need a drink.
[Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com]