–I received an ARC of this novel from Angry Robots in exchange for an honest review–
I’m fascinated by religions and love stand-up comedy as an art form, so right away the premise of Last God Standing captured my attention: God decides to give up his eternal life and power and live as a mortal stand-up comic. Yeah! I hoped for a story that would play with how an ex-all-knowing deity would cope with becoming mortal and having to get up on a stage, bare his soul, and connect with an audience of mortals caught up in everyday problems.
It turns out that stand-up comedy doesn’t play such a big role in this novel, at least not in the plot or main character arc. There’s are some funny scenes with industry politics, but stand-up really provides more setting than anything else.
The novel is really about how God (“re-born” as Lando Calrissian Darnell Cooper) struggles with his double identity: he’s got to juggle girlfriend problems while dealing with a mystery involving the other defunct gods. The story has a very superhero type feel to it: it has a huge cast of magical characters, violent and epic battles (chapter one features a deity battle featuring a giant naked Zeus and his “godly member”), and colorful often funny descriptions. For example,
“His hair was noxious flame red, which only served to heighten the impression of violence throbbing beneath his skin. His complexion had a thoroughly spanked redness to it. Years of sun damage and Celtic inbreeding ran riot beneath an explosion of freckles: Ted McFarlane had years of melanoma treatments lurking in his very near future.”
Of all the characters, I enjoyed the supporting characters most. A favorite was Herb, Lando’s mortal father, who is wearing a white cowboy outfit and trying to ride an ostrich when we first meet him. The Arch Angel Gabriel, AKA the “cosmic pain the ass,” was also fun to read when he was in loyal-dog devotion mode.
While I’m sure many readers will enjoy the big action plot, it’s not really my thing… so I struggled to engage with the story, and also with the writing itself: the shifting tenses and unattributed dialogue confused me and sometimes the humor was iced on a little too thick for my taste. I’m glad I stuck with it and read the whole book though, because the last act really shifts gears and there are some pretty weird and wonderful things there. I won’t forget the musical sunflowers in a hurry.
It wasn’t for me, but I think readers who enjoy a freewheeling plot, epic battles, and non-stop jokes will find this novel good fun.