PositiveBooks Ireland (IRE)The laughter one experiences while reading Mark O’Connell’s new book is the laughter of someone watching their home burn down while they stand on their front lawn in their underwear, seeing themselves—in all their absurdity—reflected in the windows of their soon-to-be-ash abode ... The book is in some ways a kind of antidote to ‘the flattening effect of the online discourse’, the sheer banality of the apocalypse ... Much like his first book, O’Connell’s character studies—warm, open and often hilarious—are the heart of the book. He has a knack for drawing out, or honing in on, profound remarks made in passing by those he meets, which often feel like the weighted and perfectly balanced quotes chosen by Joan Didion ... The chapters each feel like individual essays (likely because at least some of them were at some point), drawn together into a kind of accumulation of angst, mounting fear, absurdity, hilarity and gravity. Although they knit well, the understandable desire to close each chapter with a succinct aphorism—a style that so often defines our perception of the essay genre—sometimes leads to resolutions that can feel trite in the wake of what has come before ... Some of the structural promises of the opening chapter feel perhaps a little unrealised ... the sense of individual stakes feels in some ways entirely contained within his children, his family. Perhaps this is not a failing at all, but a stripping back of priorities, of fears, to those most innate to us. By the end, these are all that truly matter ... O’Connell’s pilgrimage to Peter Thiel’s apocalypse ranch deep on the South Island of New Zealand is fascinating, yet, on the whole, slightly anti-climactic ... The book is frequently sewn together with lines of such poetic perfection they almost fracture the reading experience. The wit, the essential nature of almost every word, the construction at the level of the paragraph and at the level of the 140-character, aphoristic sentence, has been honed since the first book, refined so that the balance in each chapter is always delicately poised between the affable and observational and the aesthetic and intellectual. The two are never mutually exclusive ... This is in many ways a deeply American book. We begin to understand more and more as the chapters progress that the modern conception of the end of human civilisation appears to be a distinctly American one ... One criticism of the book may be that throughout its exploration of the potential ends, and its intimate encounters with those tangled up in the logistics of those endings, there is little in the way of recommended solutions or counter-actions to these entropic forces, little if any tangible calls for organised pushback. I’m not sure, however, that this is the kind of book to facilitate those appeals; there is little we can do to stop preppers from rating the best camping materials; little we can do to stop the privatisation of space travel. The book’s lasting effect is more so one of reawakening, of reprioritising, of drawing the global into the essence of the personal, and making it all the more real for doing so.