Michael Boatman – Last God Standing

michaelboatman-lastgodstandingWhen God decides to quit and join the human race to see what all the fuss is about, all Hell breaks loose.

Sensing his abdication, the other defunct gods of Earth’s vanquished pantheons want a piece of the action He abandoned.

Meanwhile, the newly-humanised deity must discover the whereabouts and intentions of the similarly reincarnated Lucifer, and block the ascension of a murderous new God.

How is he ever going to make it as a stand-up comedian with all of this going on…?

Last God Standing was one of my Anticipated Reads for this spring. As I said in that post “…when I read the blurb I immediately wanted to read the book as it seemed like it would be a really fun read. I love Boatman as an actor, he’s got a great sense of timing, which is key to comedic acting, and it’ll be interesting to see whether this translates to his writing.” Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed with the book. First of all, Last God Standing‘s blurb doesn’t really do it justice; Boatman asks some pretty deep questions in his book and it is far from the comedic fling that it looks like from the blurb. Secondly, I had a hard time connecting to the narrative. I kept getting lost and having to go back a page to figure out exactly what was going on. However, despite these problems, there were things that worked really well in this book. 

The star of Last God Standing is Lando Calrissian Darnell Cooper, a.k.a. the descended incarnation of Yahweh. I had a really hard time finding my feet with Lando; in fact I didn’t really settle in until over a third of the way in. Lando is funny and sometimes a little clueless, but at the same time he’s also still in some ways the Creator and thinks that way, a contrast that left me a little confused at times. I felt that the narrative was most compelling in the second part of the book, when Lando wakes up in a different continuity. There were some genuinely touching scenes in there, especially with his son Herbert-Hassani. There are also genuinely funny bits, especially some of Lando’s performances which are transcribed in the book. And of course the scene where Lando has a sort of melt-down while meeting his girlfriend Surahbi’s family for the first time is hilarious in its painful embarrassment that just made me cringe in sympathy. Lando’s interactions with his insane family – his parents really are crazy – his best friend Yuri, and Surahbi are often quite funny. Boatman also manages to convey the true love and relaxed relationship between Lando and Surabhi without any soppiness.

The gods Boatman includes in his novel are fun and besides the usual Greek, Norse and Egyptian suspects he also includes Hindu, Navajo, and Haitian gods to name a few. I especially loved Connie, or Changing Woman, a Navajo Earthmother, who functions as his conscience while he’s growing up. I liked the way they interacted and their banter. I can see how the inclusion of all these different deities and the eventual plot resolution might be offensive to truly devout people – I’ve already seen someone on Goodreads describe the book as too blasphemous in places – but for me as someone who is a professed agnostic, this wasn’t really an issue.

I think the thing I struggled most with in the book is the balance between humour and asking really pertinent, philosophical questions. Boatman can shift gears from hilariously funny to complicated religious or philosophical pondering in a heartbeat, which made mood of the narrative flip-flop quite a bit for me. The flip-flopping might also explain my trouble settling into the story, as I had to keep adjusting to the difference in tone.

One of the things I was looking forward to discovering was whether Boatman’s sense of timing translated from the screen to the page. And the answer is twofold; on the one hand it does, especially in the straight-up comedy scenes, but on the other, it feels like not so much the comedic as the emotional timing is off, making for an uneven read. Still, Boatman created an interesting story and an intelligent one. I’m glad I stuck with it and finished the book as the ending is quite satisfying. Boatman definitely has a way with words and I look forward to seeing more of him as an author in the future. Last God Standing isn’t a book for everyone and if religious irreverence bothers you mightily, I’d steer clear of the novel. However, if you enjoy deep philosophical questions coated in humour then you should certainly give this one a shot.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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  • I felt that the visuals in this book would have made for a great film, but a lot got lost in the presentation as a book. And I also felt that it settled and got most coherent in Lando’s alternate timeline; I was sad that it took so long to get to that section and that it ended so abruptly, because I was really enjoying reading about the alternate world!