Pocket Apocalypse: Alex goes to Australia and it’s not fun

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Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsPocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsPocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse (2015) is book four in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series. You should probably read book three, Half-Off Ragnarok, before reading Pocket Apocalypse, but you don’t have to read the first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.

We met Alex Price, Verity’s big brother, in the previous INCRYPTID novel, Half-Off Ragnarok. In this fourth book, Pocket Apocalypse, Alex’s girlfriend Shelby gets word from her family that there’s a werewolf outbreak in Australia. Having had a traumatic childhood experience with werewolves, they are Alex’s worst fear.

But that experience made Alex something of an expert, so he reluctantly agrees to go with Shelby to Australia. Being a cryptozoologist, he understands such things as the transmission and incubation period of the virus that causes lycanthropy as well as the werewolf life cycle and health problems they’re prone to. He also knows how to brew a delicate but nasty concoction that might alleviate some of the effects of the disease. Plus, he wants to meet Shelby’s family.

Pocket Apocalypse makes a slow start as Alex and Shelby travel together for the first time (Alex does not like airplanes). When they finally arrive in Australia and make it past customs, the situation has become pretty dire. Both humans and animals have been infected and the resulting werewolves (or weresheep, etc.) turn into violent killing machines that are very hard to kill. The savagery hits home immediately — Shelby’s family’s large clan of monster hunters is not immune to the outbreak. In fact, some of them may know a lot more than they’re telling…

InCryptid (Book Series) by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsIf there’s anything worse than the werewolves, it’s Shelby’s family. They hated Alex before he arrived on their continent and nothing he does can make them warm up. They’re a nasty lot (especially Shelby’s father) and not much fun to watch or listen to. For me, this affected the story in a negative way. One of the strengths of the previous books was the secondary characters, but there’s not a single character in Australia that you’ll want to root for other than Alex, Shelby, and the six Aeslin mice they brought along. Speaking of the mice… they are adorable as usual and they have a significant role to play in the werewolf plot (though Alex should have thought of that role earlier than he did). Unfortunately, something bad happens to them in Pocket Apocalypse and that made me more sad than anything that happened to a human.

There were too many instances in Pocket Apocalypse when one or more of the characters did something dumb or reacted in a way that felt unrealistic. I had a hard time believing in some of the plot and some of the characters. Shelby’s father was over the top, and dumb villains decided to monologue or talk about who might be knocking on the door instead of killing the heroes when they had the chance. As has happened in previous books, the protagonist (Alex in this case) used very little evidence to make huge leaps in logic, yet turned out to be right. Lastly, McGuire didn’t take full advantage of the Australian setting. This story could have happened anywhere.

INCRYPTID fans are likely to forgive (or maybe not notice) these little problems because they love Alex, Shelby, and the mice. That’s totally understandable. Personally, I like Verity Price (Alex’s little sister) better and look forward to reading the next INCRYPTID book, Chaos Choreography, because she’s the main character again. Because the word “Choreography” is part of the title, I’m hoping we’ll see some ballroom dancing. I’ll let you know.

By the way, I’m listening to the audiobook version of the INCRYPTID series. They are excellent productions. This one is read by Ray Porter who does a really nice job. Pocket Apocalypse is 10.5 hours long but I increased the playback speed a bit, making it actually shorter. (I always do that.)

Published in 2015. Endangered, adjective: Threatened with extinction or immediate harm. Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered. Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much. Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own. The continent which currently includes Alex. Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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6 comments

  1. April /
    Thanks for the review. I'm probably one of the ones who love this mostly for Alex and the mice ;-) I actually find Alex more likable than Verity for some reason. I haven't listened to these in audio - don't think my library carries them.
    • You know what, I think I like Alex better (I’d rather know Alex personally) but I like Verity’s STORY better… this may have to do with Dominic and Shelby, though. I like Dominic, but Shelby is pretty bland. So, all in all, I like Verity and Dominic’s story better.

  2. I think I’d read this and Half-Off Ragnarok just to meet Alex. It’s sad that so many of the secondary characters are nasty or bland.

  3. April /

    Have you read any of the short stories for this series? They are great, they kind of flesh out some backstory. Many are available free on her website.

    Now you’ve got me wanting to reread these to see if I was blinded by the mice!

    • April, I’ve only read the novella that rounded out TRICKS FOR FREE.

    • I haven’t read any of them, either. Unfortunately they are not in audio format (which is how I do pretty much all my fiction reading these days). I will keep an eye out for them, though.

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