In a flooded New York City, a young man named Crosby and his cat, Kitsky, struggle to survive. The skyscrapers barely rise above the tides, and everywhere is silence. Scavenging is managed by way of a small boat, under the cover of rain, and it’s not exactly easy business; the city is treacherous in its disrepair, the once unpeopled heights of the city—those elevated spaces which people weren’t meant to see—are the only spaces left, and these were never hospitable to begin with.
The cat is hungry. Crosby’s not just looking out for himself.
Everything about Post York feels as if it contains its own self-propelled intrigue engine. New York City, a setting both timeless and ever-changing. An apocalypse. A small and surface-level engaging set of supporting cast members. Whales. That cat.
The truth, however, is that the book is confoundingly—annoyingly—flat. What begins as a very promising, near-silent examination of the fragility of life gets derailed by narrative indecision only a third of the way through the bulk of the book. After a struggle with another survivor—who becomes, in herself, an interesting potential secondary character—and an exciting and endearing mission to save a trapped whale, the book presents us with a large “OR”, backpedaling all that promise to the initial struggle and presupposing a reality where the girl was accidentally killed.
The presentation of a secondary narrative is by no means a new or book-breaking novelty in literature—it has been the central conceit of some incredible works of narrative exploration—but this book does the same thing a second time, presenting a third (and much more bonkers) narrative possibility.
All of this could easily be incorporated into an interesting, captivating whole. The problem that arises, however, is that the narrative thirds each put forward disparate and unresolved speculations and concerns; no third fully benefits from the existence of another, and the second and third portions cannot support themselves alone.
The result is a bit like going into a theater to watch a quiet, thoughtful arthouse picture by a first-time director. The first reel of the film sets a tone and style that is captivating, charming, and unresolved. The second reel of the film appears to have been directed by a very nervous mid-career Brian de Palma; the third descends into full Tarantino violence, complete with low-key romantic negging and a full-blown Hedonism Sacrifice Cult. There is no explanation for why the film was constructed thus, only a portion of supplementary material concerning the looming real-world aquatic apocalypse. No refund is offered.
It isn’t, perhaps, as bad as all that. The book manages to contain slivers of meditative moments, introspective and stimulating tidbits. The tenacity and impermanence of art is spoken about aloud, briefly, offered as either a commentary on or explanation for the work itself; no further exploration is provided, but the effort was made.
In the end, Post York presents some questions; none of them are particularly insightful ones.
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