Ball Peen Hammer
by Adam Rapp
Cover Artist: George O'Connor
Review by Drew Bittner
First Second Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596433007
Date: 29 September 2009 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
This is a story about the end of the world. Even more, it's a story about the end of the things that make the world meaningful, and how those things get lost. It isn't a story of survival--it's a story of bare existence, stripped of anything like heroism or triumph.
It's Ball Peen Hammer, actor/playwright Adam Rapp's commentary on the end.
Welton is sick. He is infected with the disease that has ravaged the city. Only four percent of the human race is immune; the rest are dying, some of them from plague and others from the brutal thugs who rule the post-civilized world. Hiding in the basement of an apartment building, living off survival rations, Welton one day gets a knock on the door.
It is Aaron, one of the few immune to the disease. Welton allows him inside and they discuss a possible cure (or maybe just a way of forestalling death). They discuss how the Syndicate has plugged up tunnels where refugees hid, burying some alive in concrete. Welton thinks about the girl he loves, whom he is certain is dead. And Aaron mourns the loss of his friend Daniel, who died in his arms.
Meanwhile, a feral child named Horlick steals melons; he's confronted and captured by Exley, a hard-edged but compassionate young woman. They talk and she reveals that she's an actress...and she's looking for a musician she met in the tunnels.
How the stories of these four come to intersect is a delicate dance of memory, hope and courage. Not the cheap machismo of a post-apocalypse movie, but the real, gut-wrenching business of surviving the end. It is about the survival of art, and dreams, and ultimately some tiny bit of salvation.
Rapp and artist George O'Connor have crafted an effective, gripping look at how artists and dreamers face their own mortality. It is a melancholy work, but has its share of humor, pathos and grim gumption. Anyone looking for a slam-bang shoot-em-up for their endtimes fix will have to look elsewhere; this is an end of the world story for those who are ready for something more.