“All advertising is lying. Women buy our makeup because they want to look like the women in the ads – never mind that those women have perfect genes and half a dozen eating disorders and we still Photoshop their pictures anyway. People accept lies in advertising – They expect them. This is the same thing.”
-Dan Wells – Extreme Makeover (Apocalypse Edition)
Over the last 4 months I have become a huge fan of Dan Wells. His John Cleaver novels have kept me awake at nights with fear and have stood out as some of my favourite novels I’ve read in 2016. So when I found out that he was releasing a new novel, I had to pick it up the day it was released! Sadly, it came out the same day as Star Wars: Catalyst, so it took a backseat to that novel.
Now, finally, I have finished the book and can share my thoughts about it.
First, the premise. Extreme Makeover (Also called Extreme Makeover: Apocalypse Edition) is a Science Fiction, end of the world story, where the destruction of the world is brought about by a well meaning scientist who invents a moisturising cream that has the unwanted side effect of rewriting the DNA of anyone who it touches. When the bigwigs in corporate headquarters realise what they have on their hands, rather than make the smart choice and halt production, they look for the easiest way to monetise it.
Part Disaster novel, and part Science Fiction novel, with a health dose of social commentary Extreme Makeover is an exciting look at an end of the world scenario that is both ridiculous, and yet feel scarily possible.
What I Liked
This book was a lot of fun to read. The events in the book should be so absurd that it feels completely impossible, yet once you get past the “handwavium” science behind the lotion, ironically branded ReBirth, the plot of the novel is incredibly believable and plausible. As a reader I found myself yo-yo-ing between laughing and fear at a concerning frequency.
Dan Wells’ fast paced writing style is in full swing again. Just as the plots of the John Cleaver novels have a constant sense of motion, Extreme Makeover (nearly) always feels relentless in its pacing. This is helped by each chapter beginning with a “XXX Days to the End of The World”. At first I found myself doubting the plot would wrap up in the short amount of time presented, but the novel quickly showed how fragile human society can be, and the plot came to a satisfactory conclusion (Mostly, but more on that later)
This book was also hilariously funny at time, with a healthy dose of humour coming from office politics and small time megalomaniacs trying to use the crisis to their advantage. Strangely, I found myself empathising with the main character Lyle, without ever really feeling like I understood or agreed with him. I suppose there is a certain amount about experiencing the Apocalypse that is universal to all humans.
What I Didn't Like
Sadly, there were aspects of this book that felt a little off. Though the plot progressed quickly for the vast majority of the page count I found myself getting a little antsy for the book to end in the last 50 pages or so. I think that’s because we ultimately see the final doom of humanity from a very limited point of view, and I was hoping to see more of the larger scale collapse of human society. (Does that make me a terrible person?)
Second, this book is full of a bunch of terrible people (I guess I’d fit in). Lyle, our main character, is the only real exception to this trait, but he’s a spineless loser for most of the novel, so he didn’t really stand out. While I recognise this is probably a realistic portrayal of the kinds of people who would bring about the end of the world, this isn’t a book for people looking for a hero.
Lastly, the final chapter was a little bit odd. Without going into spoilers, I think I understand what Wells was trying to do with it, but it didn’t jive well with the rest of the novel in my opinion, and I think the novel wouldn’t suffer from it being removed.
Should I Read it?
Despite my complaints I do think this novel is worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of Wells’ other work. It’s funny and scary at the same time, and a lot of the commentary on our society and our overemphasis on beauty is handled cleverly.
Unless you are a hard core Dan Wells fan I would recommend waiting and taking this book out from your local library when you can. Then sit down and spend a weekend laughing at those silly people who are so shortsighted and selfish they bring about the end of human society with lotion.
Then realise you may be no different…
- Plot 75%
- Writing Quality 80%
- Pacing 80%
- Emotional Connection 70%
- Wildcard 85%
- Overall Rating 78%