Robert Guffey’s UNTIL THE LAST DOG dies presents a novel type of apocalypse: What if a disease made the world lose its sense of humor?
When comedian Elliott Greeley gets a tepid response to a performance at a comedy club, he wonders if he’s losing his edge but then learns the CDC is warning the public about a virus that makes people lose their sense of humor. As audiences shrink, one by one his colleagues contract the disease and quit the business, while the world stops being fun.
The wonderful idea and its huge potential grabbed me right away, but for me, the novel didn’t quite deliver. The story has little to do with the plague until the end, which in my view is the best part and makes the most interesting points. Until then, it diffuses into numerous subplots, most of it staged farce and a bit self-indulgent for the narrator. Comedy threads most of the narrative, though most of it is absurdist shock stuff, which unlike some people I usually don’t find shocking or very funny (I’m a terrible Cards Against Humanity Player).
I’ll just say I was the wrong reader for this book. There’s a proverb in the lighting industry, which I cover as a journalist for my day job: “There are no bad lighting products, only bad applications.” For me, it’s the same with books. When I was younger, I appreciated this type of story–young introverted male nobody understands is surrounded by the absurd, which he takes in stride, and everybody takes his absurd response seriously. Our introverted male even participates in a long subplot involving him being a shoulder to cry on for the beautiful crazy chick who has a jerk boyfriend, and whom he’d love to rescue by trying to get her into bed. Maybe it’s because I’m older or something, but I just don’t dig this type of story anymore.
So I think this is a great book for a certain crowd who will appreciate it as a comical romp along with the well-intended message that humor is as a necessary thing, but for this middle-aged guy, it just didn’t connect.