James Boice’s The Good and The Ghastly is a bit of a mixed bag. The books strengths are the same as its weaknesses. Every thought in this book is followed through to its logical extreme and this excess is at times brilliant and at other times tiresome. Boice’s writing is at times self-indulgent and overly clever but, at the same time, it is this very indulgence that produces the book’s better moments.
The Good and The Ghastly is set in the 34th century when, after a nuclear holocaust, civilization has rebuilt itself along nearly identical lines to our present day civilization. The protagonist is a sociopath with delusions of grandeur and the book is unflinching in its violence. The narrative voice is all over the place. Sometimes second person, sometimes first person, mostly third person.
There are times where the novel’s brutal and relentless poetry approaches genius. In the end the book very nearly won me over by sheer tenacity. The final 30 or so pages are mostly great and if the book had ended one chapter earlier I would have rated it one full star higher but, alas, he lost me again with the last chapter.