"Apocalypse Cow" Book Review
Written by Michael Logan
2013, 352 pages, Fiction
Released on May 1st, 2012 (UK) and May 26th, 2013 (US).
For a book about rapacious and murderous livestock, Michael Logan’s dark comedy Apocalypse Cow has some surprising themes. Funny at times, anxiety-invoking at others, this book gives acknowledging nods to mild European xenophobia, vegan self-righteousness and the non-sanctity of life. Mostly it speaks to the dichotomy of life in Scotland.
Terry hates working at the slaughterhouse, but it’s the only work he can find. The most ambition back-page journalist Lesley can muster is how wildly she can murder her star colleague Colin in her fantasies. Geldof is a miserable, scrawny teenager pining for his math teacher Mary and a good, juicy steak. The heroes form an unlikely alliance when a virus explodes across Bearsden, a suburb about 5 miles north of Glasgow. Cows, squirrels, cats, sheep, no mammal is safe from the disease that ratchets up their libido and homicidal tendencies (that’s right: your dog will furiously hump your leg before he tears you apart). Geldof, his father, Terry, Mary, and Lesley soon realize the only way out is to flee the country. But with neighboring nations refusing entry, will crossing an infested land only lead to death at the Chunnel? What other choice to they have?
I have many conflicting ideas about Apocalypse Cow, but I think that’s a result of how Logan presents his thoughts. On one hand, Terry is disgusted by what he had to do in the abattoir. He stunned cows so they were docile and brain damaged when their throats were cut to drain the blood. On the other, Geldof has been deprived of meat by his animal-rights-activist mother for fourteen years and is desperate for hearty proteins, preferably in the form of a Big Mac. Lesley is desperate to prove her successful father wrong; that she isn’t a screw up and can break a news story bigger than his legendary war coverage. That being said, it seems the only thing holding her back is her preoccupation with jealously while she waits for a tell-all to simply fall in her lap. The government soldiers are both responsible for machine-gunning child looters, but also for setting up “rest and recuperation” centers to guard civilians and monitor possible viral contamination. I don’t know what to think; or at least what Logan thinks.
I’ve mentioned this before in film reviews, that a teacher of mine frequently said “all art must possess a precise, passionate, political, personal, point of view.” Not knowing where Logan stands on any of this viral outbreak makes it hard to get a read on this book, no pun intended. Books, as well as films and plays, should give you ideas to fight for or against. Entertainment is a dialogue between the receiver and the creator; it opens your eyes to new ideas that clash or comfort. Even when the source of the virus is discovered I couldn’t tell if the writer wanted me to identify the culprits as a villain or just a faceless concept. Does he think all vegans are self-righteous? Does he think meat eaters are mindless consumers? Is there a hidden agenda in killing of featured characters? Is there a meaning in the love the survivors find? Your guess is as good as mine.
Apocalypse Cow is funny in its darkness, frank manner, and poignant display of French and British distaste for one another...but I just don’t really see the point.