Pocket Apocalypse (2015) is book four in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series. You should probably read book three, Half-Off Ragnarok, before reading Pocket Apocalypse, but you don’t have to read the first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special.
We met Alex Price, Verity’s big brother, in the previous INCRYPTID novel, Half-Off Ragnarok. In this fourth book, Pocket Apocalypse, Alex’s girlfriend Shelby gets word from her family that there’s a werewolf outbreak in Australia. Having had a traumatic childhood experience with werewolves, they are Alex’s worst fear.
But that experience made Alex something of an expert, so he reluctantly agrees to go with Shelby to Australia. Being a cryptozoologist, he understands such things as the transmission and incubation period of the virus that causes lycanthropy as well as the werewolf life cycle and health problems they’re prone to. He also knows how to brew a delicate but nasty concoction that might alleviate some of the effects of the disease. Plus, he wants to meet Shelby’s family.
Pocket Apocalypse makes a slow start as Alex and Shelby travel together for the first time (Alex does not like airplanes). When they finally arrive in Australia and make it past customs, the situation has become pretty dire. Both humans and animals have been infected and the resulting werewolves (or weresheep, etc.) turn into violent killing machines that are very hard to kill. The savagery hits home immediately — Shelby’s family’s large clan of monster hunters is not immune to the outbreak. In fact, some of them may know a lot more than they’re telling…
If there’s anything worse than the werewolves, it’s Shelby’s family. They hated Alex before he arrived on their continent and nothing he does can make them warm up. They’re a nasty lot (especially Shelby’s father) and not much fun to watch or listen to. For me, this affected the story in a negative way. One of the strengths of the previous books was the secondary characters, but there’s not a single character in Australia that you’ll want to root for other than Alex, Shelby, and the six Aeslin mice they brought along. Speaking of the mice… they are adorable as usual and they have a significant role to play in the werewolf plot (though Alex should have thought of that role earlier than he did). Unfortunately, something bad happens to them in Pocket Apocalypse and that made me more sad than anything that happened to a human.
There were too many instances in Pocket Apocalypse when one or more of the characters did something dumb or reacted in a way that felt unrealistic. I had a hard time believing in some of the plot and some of the characters. Shelby’s father was over the top, and dumb villains decided to monologue or talk about who might be knocking on the door instead of killing the heroes when they had the chance. As has happened in previous books, the protagonist (Alex in this case) used very little evidence to make huge leaps in logic, yet turned out to be right. Lastly, McGuire didn’t take full advantage of the Australian setting. This story could have happened anywhere.
INCRYPTID fans are likely to forgive (or maybe not notice) these little problems because they love Alex, Shelby, and the mice. That’s totally understandable. Personally, I like Verity Price (Alex’s little sister) better and look forward to reading the next INCRYPTID book, Chaos Choreography, because she’s the main character again. Because the word “Choreography” is part of the title, I’m hoping we’ll see some ballroom dancing. I’ll let you know.
By the way, I’m listening to the audiobook version of the INCRYPTID series. They are excellent productions. This one is read by Ray Porter who does a really nice job. Pocket Apocalypse is 10.5 hours long but I increased the playback speed a bit, making it actually shorter. (I always do that.)
InCryptid— (2012- ) Publisher: Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity — and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…