Gregory Bernard Banks
WheelMan Press, 2009
190 pages, Fiction
3 out of 5 stars
A contemporary twist on a quotidian premise, Gregory Banks fictionalizes the 2012 doomsday prediction with a stock disaster story heavy with religious overtones that sees the human race tumbling towards apocalyptic calamity. It is December 21st, 2012 and the President of the Unites States has alerted the world that they are on a crash-course with an asteroid, and that in three hours all will be destroyed. We’re familiar with this scenario, the movie Deep Impact comes quickly to mind, but I was curious to see how the author would reconcile this seemingly Christian morality tale with a doomsday scenario based on Mayan paganism.
The fast-paced story quickly unfolds into a series of character-driven vignettes centering on the terrible mistakes people have made and the various ways they decide to address their past. Violent and even savage at times, Banks paints a bleak picture of humanity where people are “sophisticated beasts who must be given direction” and whose souls can be freed only by death (with just hours remaining the Israelis and Palestinians still can’t stop killing each other). Once the three-hour fuse is lit, the story moves quickly towards disaster and the situation becomes more desperate as we move along. In such a character driven story it was odd that I felt more compelled by the doomsday scenario than by the people it would affect.
This is a very easy read, with short chapters that are never boring but there are so many characters that there is not enough time to get to know anyone, or to develop those characters we are supposed to care about the most. One of the most interesting threads concerns a bizarre religious cult reminiscent of the Heaven’s Gate UFO group whose mass suicide in 1997 coincided with the appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp. We also get to know a fictional American president whose controversial decision to hide in an underground bunker while the rest of humanity awaits destruction drives his guilt and ultimately becomes his undoing. And the story of three immoral men trapped in an elevator with three hours to live would be a great setting for a one-act play but we are never with them long enough to develop a strong personal connection or a sense of involvement with their feelings.
Speckled with drug use, violence and gang warfare the story is balanced with mushy themes of repentance and redemption. The end of the world seems to be caused not by man’s own doing but by a cosmic or even supernatural event out of our control and it is our reaction to certain doom that sparks destruction, instead of the event itself. What ensues is a chaotic exercise where evil men are just as damned as those who repent and where no one has anything to lose. In the end, 2012: Seeking Closure is an exploration of man’s ability for chaos where one wonders why anyone deserves a second chance and why humans need to find greater meaning even if there isn’t one. Banks succeeds by addressing the question: how would we react if we learned we had only three hours left? The answer won’t be pretty.
Strengths: compelling use of a countdown, fast-paced, easy reading that is never boring
Opportunities: familiar premise, lots of characters
Will appeal to: light readers, persons of faith, fans of doomsday/apocalyptic literature
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, May 2009.