The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
HarperCollins Publishers, 2016; 368 pp
Reviewed by Kelly Lucero
The apocalypse has never been so amusing. In The Everything Box, New York Times bestselling author of Sandman Slim, Richard Kadrey, combines the tropes of apocalyptic fiction and comedy science fiction to create a fast-passed, sidesplitting caper. Kadrey’s humor is satirical of sci-fi and apocalyptic fiction without being insulting toward the genres, ultimately creating a novel that is reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but with less intergalactic travel and more supernatural elements. Arguably, the best thing about Kadrey’s humor is that it does not exclude fans of the genres that he satirizes.
The plot begins when the angel Qaphsiel is sent from Heaven (where he is in charge of sorting office supplies) to earth to bring about the doom of mankind. Upon arriving on earth, Qaphsiel loses the box containing the ingredients for humanity’s destruction. He simply utters, “Crap,” and is left to wander in search of the “everything box” for the next four thousand years.
The crux of the plot takes place in 2015 A.D. where the world is filled with magical and mystical creatures who hang out in Jinx Town, located underground Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, California. Charlie “Coop” Cooper, a thief whose magic power is his immunity to curses, is released from prison with the job of stealing the coveted box. Kadrey’s narrative follows Coop through his heist as he forms friendships with government officials, criminals, and an anxious poltergeist who just won’t stop singing as they help him in the race to attain the box before rivaling groups of worshippers utilize it to destroy the earth.
Kadrey uses the tropes of the apocalyptic fiction genre to build up tension throughout his novel. However, through his witticisms, Kadrey subverts the reader’s expectation of the genre, creating hilariously anticlimactic scenes. For this reason, the entirety of the plotline builds up to what is essentially a punchline. For example, in one of these scenes, a group of worshippers congregates to make contact with their lord. The ritual is interrupted by the priest who chokes on the host, which should be made of a sacrificial boar, but in actuality is a “Monsieur Crunchero” blue corn chip. As the ritual comes to a halt, the worshippers return to their everyday lives, shifting the atmosphere from mysterious to ridiculously average. Because the novel is densely packed with scenes like these, by the end of the novel, the reader is not expecting a resolution so much as a punchline. Kadrey successfully presents his reader with both.