Cover Image: Here Goes Nothing

Here Goes Nothing

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I tried, but DNF at about 45% It started off really good, I enjoyed the main characters, and their backstories, but once the setting changed (I won't give it away) I found it hard to stay invested. It was a little long-winded for me and I couldn't stat interested in the storyline.
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When Angus Mooney is murdered by an unwelcome house guest, he finds that the afterlife is about as painfully mundane as life was. As he struggles to assimilate to his new reality he is consumed with worries about the pregnant wife, Gracie, he left behind who is now living alone with his murderer, Owen. When a devastating pandemic takes over Earth both Owen and Gracie join Mooney in the afterlife. 

This was a complex plot to describe and I'm not sure I've done it justice in the above summary. So much is going on and yet the plot is weirdly vague. All of these characters are unbearable and it's a slog to get through because I didn't want to spend any time with them. No questions about this afterlife are answered, which is probably due to the fact that Mooney is the singularly most incurious person in human history.  I'm sure this is all a point the Toltz is trying to make about how humans see the world and how pointless it is to worry about the afterlife/ Regardless, this is a depressing book, whose humor cannot be truly appreciated because of how bleak the characters and setting of the book are.
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Essentially an absurdist, apoplectic satire where a man dies and is reconstituted in something like a  kafkaesque purgatory resembling human life as we know it--and he gets to peek into the "real" world from time to time to check in on his pregnant wife and strange house guest, who came into their lives shortly before his death. 
  
The plot beats of this story were interesting enough to keep me reading throughout, and that's the kindest thing I can say about this. The humor was more miss than hit. Because it targets primarily a lot of philosophical intersections, which don't have concrete answers, it doesn't feel like any kind of actual interrogation of the schools of thought and is more like fodder for joke after joke after joke after joke. It gets pretty tideous precisely because it can't actually say anything about these subjects, and it's so long because its primary preoccupation is this absurdist bent that continues to perform magic tricks after the audience has seen through a trick. 

Character work was fine, but rooted in, again, absurdism; undercutting any tension or emotion that was developing. Just when I was putting it down there would be a moment that lands, however. And I did complete it, so I can't bring myself to fully condemn it. I'm sure people more interested in this brand of humor would love it. Had it been truncated and reworked to not undercut itself it would have been great, I think.
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This book was quite weird in a good way. It reminded me a lot of a Christopher Moore novel or maybe 21st century Kurt Vonnegut. It has a ton of ideas in it, often just tossed off as an aside, and a main character who I often found quite unsympathetic, except that his viewpoint and the writing draw you in and I wanted to see more of his relationship with Gracie (who also has some great rant/performances in the book).
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Wow! Wow! Wow! Yep I found Here Goes Nothing by Steve Toltz astounding!!!


The publisher’s blurb gives a good introduction to the novel:

	“Angus is a reformed ne’er-do-well looking forward to the birth of his first child when he’s murdered by a man who is in love with his pregnant wife Gracie. Having never believed in God, heaven or hell, Angus finds himself in the afterlife - a place that provides more questions than answers. As a worldwide pandemic finally reaches the shores of Australia, the afterlife starts to get very crowded and Angus finds a way to reconnect with his wife Gracie and maybe even seek revenge on his murder….”

The storyline is totally crazy and the language to convey this is out of this world. I guess in essence this is a very sad and depressing story but believe it or not I found myself actually laughing out loud and chuckling over the story and the images portrayed by the writing.

Take this as an example of the images created by words:

	“  ‘I think that’s the right way of seeing it,’ he said, looking like a crustacean pulled out of a boiling pot at the last minute. He had gotten away with murder.”


Our pandemic is the past in this story, but there is worse to come and how we behaved in 2020 is intensified in this future:

	“Out in the world, traffic was a nightmare. Shopping centres had a manic, Christmas Eve vibe, and there was a conspicuous endgame of stash and hoard going on. Word was out that the unthinkable was inevitable, and people were once again readying for the adventure of staying home, tapping into their animalistic drive for tinned foods and toilet paper.”

While incredibly philosophical:

	“She helped ease his burden of dying, and he helped ease her burden of living.”


The story reminds me of T.S Elliot:

	“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”

Highly recommended read.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher Melville House Publishing  via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Any quotes are subject to change with the final publication.
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I finished this book three days ago, and I still don't know what to write here. So, I am going to make this review short and sweet. Read this book if you love dark humor, existentialism, Kafka, and tales from an afterlife that is just as confusing as actual life. If you are easily depressed or have no sense of humor, you might want to avoid this book. Plenty of other reviews have provided a synopsis of the story, so I am not even going to try. I'll just say that it's weird and incredibly original.

This is the first book I have read by Steve Toltz. I liked this book very much, and I plan on going back and reading more from him. I liked the characters of Angus and Gracie, I liked the general theme of the novel, and I laughed out loud many times while reading it.

Thank you to NetGalley and Melville House Publishing for the arc of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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A snarky and bleak look at what might possibly await is in the afterlife. Filled with black humor and much commentary on current political climate and the pandemic, this one cuts like a knife.
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The Afterlife and the Beforelife (?) as concepts in fiction have never really gone away from the Bible through Dante’s Inferno and beyond. But in these uncertain and pandemic-riddled times there seems to be have been a bit of a renaissance in the depiction of these ideas. Movies like Soul and Nine Days and TV shows like The Good Place have dealt with that part of humans that either exists before or survives death. Australian author Steve Toltz, best known for his Booker shortlisted debut A Fraction of the Whole, takes on life, the afterlife, organised religion, the pandemic and a range of current issues in his latest book Here Goes Nothing.
It is no spoiler to reveal that the narrator of Here Goes Nothing, Angus Mooney, is dead. He reveals as much in the opening lines of the book. Before we get to how he died, we start the strange story of how his wife invited a dying stranger into their home and how the cash strapped pair make a deal with him that enables him to stay. Before long Mooney is dead, finds himself in an unexpected afterlife, trying to work out what to do with his new life but also finding an unhealthy way to keep track of his wife and the lodger who is sliding into his place. 
It has to be said that Toltz’s afterlife is idiosyncratic but uninspiring. It is essentially, our world but grimier. People have had all of their Earthly maladies cured but they still eat and drink and work and fight and procreate and can still die (and still no one knows where they go next). There are religions, refugee camps, housing shortages, border skirmishes and, of course, a bureaucracy that essentially runs the place (an interesting commonality with all of the works previously mentioned).
Mooney is what can only be called a Toltzian character. Damaged, self-deprecating, needy, obsessive and self-destructive. While he is in some ways the perfect guide to what is a dispiriting and grey afterlife, he is also a hard character to spend a lot of time with. Meanwhile his nemesis, Owen Fogel, while more than a little sociopathic, is also suave and charismatic when he wants to be.
Because this novel was written post 2020 it has a pandemic thread - a new, deadly pandemic is sweeping the world spread by domesticated dogs. This allows Toltz to comment on the global response to Covid, and the Australian response in particular. It is also used as a plot device that puts pressure both on Angus’ pregnant wife Gracie and on the resources of the afterlife in which Mooney has found himself. In a clear allegory of various refugee crises around the world, those who run the afterlife have to find a pragmatic solution to the sudden influx of souls that they are unable to house.
Being about the afterlife, Toltz also has plenty to say about religion and its various institutions. The afterlife itself has its own forms of religion, because humans will be human. Back on Earth, Gracie is a marriage celebrant and later attends baby namings, and she tells things as she sees them, something that wins her plenty of work despite her unvarnished views.
Here Goes Nothing is a novel full of ideas but they are delivered in a fairly cynical, downbeat and fatalistic style. There is comedy here but it is intensely black and generally at the hapless Angus’ expense. And given what comes before it, it is unsurprising that the narrative builds to a particularly dark conclusion that may need to come with trigger warnings for some.
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Where to start?  Angus, who deeply loves Gracie, went straight for her and then he's murdered by the man who they allowed into their home.  Now he's in the afterlife, which isn't the Paradise he'd ben led to believe it would be, especially since it's getting crowded with victims of a vicious pandemic.  Angus keeps an eye on Gracie but doesn't like what he sees happening to her. This is darkly funny with great imagery.  It's also thought provoking,  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Might not be for everyone but I very much enjoyed it.
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This book is weird. And I mean that in the best possible way. Strange and inventive and a terrifying look at what might be in store for all of us.
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When I read Steve Toltz's A Fraction of the Whole four years ago, I felt as if I'd met in Toltz a member of my personal writers karmic pack. So when I heard he had a new book coming this May, I instantly requested and then gobbled down an advanced reading copy of Here Goes Nothing.

If you like to laugh wildly while simultaneously obsessing over the meaning of existence, the hopelessness of our human egos, what may or may not happen after death, and if there is an afterlife, will there be constipation and diarrhea? this is a book for you.

Angus Mooney, the protagonist, is a thief, a romantic, and a philosopher who is dedicated to the easier path of not learning or understanding anything. Despite his skepticism about just about everything and the value of anything, he falls in love, marries, dies, and . . . 

Well, that's where the excitement really begins and to tell you about the wild ride that follows would be a disservice.

Author Steve Toltz is his own man and writer, but to give you an idea of the speed and spontaneity of his literary inventiveness, imagine if Robin Williams and Joseph Heller gave birth (they'd figure out how) to a prodigy writer son and they left him alone for a few years in a room with a typewriter. (Somehow this picture demands a typewriter, with its clamor, its swinging and dinging parts, and paper being rolled and ripped and sent in crumpled balls across the room.) Now imagine the kid grew up and, during the growing, read every book he ever got his hands on, developed a writer's skill for structure and language and ways of seeing that were utterly his own, and he decided to write a book about life, death, and everything in between and after.

That's this amazing, hilarious book.
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When you read the plot of this book aloud, as I did to my library patrons during a Facebook Live event, it is difficult to properly convey the tone of the story.  It sounds like it could go one of many directions and, in fact, it goes several ways! Within the first 50 pages I chuckled a lot.  Mooney's self-deprecation, his dead-pan way of narrating his life story and his ambivalence toward so many things were effective and humorous.  But by the last 50 pages, my breath was catching in my throat as I read.  The charm and endearing flippancy of the first part of the book is put through the pressure cooker of death, plague and bureaucracy, and comes out the other side as chaotic despair... or perhaps it is a despairing and chaotic hope.  I think that readers will bring a lot of their own worldview to this book, and see reflected in it what they already believe, love, and fear about our own existence.

Reading this made me think of Camus, of Kafka, and of The Good Place.  It will remain on my mind for a long time.  I will also be picking up Steve Toltz's previous novels!

Many thanks to Melville House and to Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy.
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With caustic wit and razor-sharp dialogue, Here Goes Nothing is a novel that leaves a stinging mark. Set in a near future where yet another zoonotic virus just might be the big one, Angus Mooney has never believed in God or the supernatural, but when he suddenly dies and finds himself in a Kafkaesque afterlife — filling up with more pandemic victims than its wonky bureaucracy and crumbling society can support — Mooney’s experiences, memories, and ironic commentary on life and its aftermath make for biting (and often very funny) observations on modern life. Author Steve Toltz balances the snark by creating characters that I loved (with at least one that I loved to hate) and he has written here my favourite kind of novel: it captured truth, it made me think, it made me feel, and I couldn’t ask for more.
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