The end of civilization tends to be long and slow; by the time the barbarians arrive at the gates, the hinges are likely to be rusty and easy to break. Will McIntosh takes such an approach in his fantastic first novel, Soft Apocalypse, following a long decade with a group of friends as their near-future society breaks down. The hero, Jasper, has a degree in psychology; it’s useless when the economy is in a freefall and communities are breaking up into tribes and cults. With his “tribe” and a girlfriend who’s a rock star (or as close as one comes in this dystopian future—she’s a sociopathic Lady Gaga-wannabe gone berserk), Jasper tries to survive with his principles intact. Unfortunately, when your civilization is bleeding out—literally and figuratively—principles may be an impediment. A great read, Soft Apocalypse is also a reminder that we’re often well past the end before we notice it’s over.