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3.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,603 ratings  ·  129 reviews
Hailed by the New York Times as "wildly ambitious" and "the sort of book that a young Herman Melville might have written had he lived today and studied such disparate works as the Bible, 'The Wasteland,' Fahrenheit 451, and Dog Soldiers, screened Star Wars and Apocalypse Now several times, dropped a lot of acid and listened to hours of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones," ...more
Paperback, 221 pages
Published May 30th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published 1985)
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Marlon Deason It added to the since of place that the story was creating. Similar to Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.

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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  1,603 ratings  ·  129 reviews

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Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
All the greats try it, the post-apocalyptic novel. Margaret Atwood has her Madaddam galaxy. Cormac McCarthy has his Road. Even Cunningham showed us some futuristic love in "Specimen Days." Etc.

But Johnson, an expert of the short story, does something extraordinary. If you didn't know this for the dystopian book it is supposed to be, it could pass for historical fic. The details are so refined, the loss of language is too real. Playing with different forms of existence, stasis, limbo, Fiskadoro
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-stars, fiction
I'm having trouble understanding what exactly DJ was aiming for with this post-apocalyptic novel. The story itself is just okay. Focusing around a couple of characters, the present day plot is forgettable. The flashbacks to the crisis itself were much more interesting. Mr. Cheung and his grandmother try almost desperately to cling to those memories of life before the apocalyptic event. This suggests that the theme may be associated with memories and our longing to tie our lives to past events. ...more
May 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amanda by: Tom from Book Club
Shelves: book-club
I thought about this for a long time. Well, a week. I still don't really know what to do with this book. Not in the unsatisfied way that By Night in Chile left me, but in a "huh, ok, so what" sort of way. Either something went way over my head or Johnson just really missed the mark with this one.

So, my response to this post-nuclear story set in Key West about people trying to hang on the threads of the culture they've lost while figuring out how to live in a new world is that I don't know what
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is a book set 60 years after a nuclear holocaust. It is a dystopian view of a future where it seems only Florida Keys and Cuba have survived. As with most dystopian novels, some parts of the world we know carry over: we see a large, empty parking lot, songs by Jimmy Hendrix are played on the radio broadcasts from Cuba, there are Quonset huts decorated with parts from old cars. But the world Johnson creates is dream-like and disjointed. The whole book feels almost like reading a dream ...more
The intriguing setting and beautiful language far outstrip the story, which is meager, vague and altogether forgettable. Dreaming, memory and forgetfulness are themes, so it makes sense that the whole book has a vague, impressionistic quality where you're not completely sure what is going on and nothing much seems to happen. Everyone and everything is just sort of floating along in a post-apocalyptic hellscape populated by impoverished, poisoned, and sometimes mutated survivors.

Johnson's prose
Alyson Hagy
Dec 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I first read FISKADORO when it was published nearly 30 years ago. I'd read Johnson's poetry and his first novel, ANGELS, and I was beyond curious about his second novel. I recall being startled, delighted, surprised, and mystified (in a good way). I'm pleased to say FISKADORO holds up very well. It's still energetic and imaginative. It maintains its dystopian "edge" nicely too; Johnson's observations about American culture remain both harsh and revealing. Best of all, we have Johnson's long and ...more
Vincent Scarpa
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In an instance of the eerie, uncanny ways of the world, I finished what was either my third or fourth reread of Fiskadoro last night, with no knowledge whatsoever that Denis Johnson had already left us. It is a gutting loss.

Every time I revisit this book, I await breathlessly its final pages, like a child watching a movie he knows the end to but anticipates—and experiences—as though for the first time, every time. Some of the best writing, anywhere, ever. And of every novel I've read in this
Aug 14, 2007 rated it liked it
The last sad remnants of humanity cling to civilization in the Florida Keys. Not the most memorable of post-apocalyptic novels, but notable for having been written during the height of my own era of nuclear fears, the mid-1980s.
Sam Tornio
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a dream you are struggling to remember.
I get the feeling that with Denis Johnson, I'm chasing the Tree of Smoke dragon.

I read Jesus' Son in college -- didn't much care for it -- and then only read Tree of Smoke because I'd heard such glowing things from people whose taste I respected. And I was floored by it, I really was.

Then I read Train Dreams. Meh.

Then I read Fiskadoro. Meh.

Mediocre post-apocalyptic fiction, designed as a mood-and-set piece, where the mood was fairly interesting, but the set did nothing for me.
Alex V.
Nov 26, 2008 rated it liked it
I am notoriously terrible at watching movies - the combination of a contrived story, the dark, siting still, and the hours between 8 and 10 in the evening are the lyre of Orpheus. I usually fall asleep twenty minutes into a movie and wake up twenty minutes before its over and think nothing happened, piecing the two ends of thing together with dream logic. I walk away feeling GOD I hate movies, how can anyone like these stupid things before realizing that I missed all the important parts that ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it
OK, denis johnson re-read of 2015 is back on chronological track.

this one steps past my previously imagined limits of the DJ poetic imagination, vivid as it is. it is a sun-fried post-apocalyptic novel with an extended flashback to the fall of vietnam, set in a nuclear wintered key west, and revolving around 1) drowning 2) clarinets 3) chaotic suffering. in terms of raw storytelling materiel, johnson moves past the stark basic shapes of Angels into a much, much richer place. a lot of precise and
Sep 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Denis Johnson’s second novel, Fiskadoro, hit shelves in the mid-eighties. It’s a post-nuclear apocalyptic narrative, and the tale might have been especially fitting given the context of the times, the Reagan era of the Cold War.

The story is set in Florida, where the few survivors remain, many years after nuclear Armageddon. The historical memory of people who live on the outskirts of land contaminated by radiation is fuzzy at best, and the novel has a surreal, hallucinatory quality about it.
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
A post-apocalyptic allegory that is so confusing and esoteric it must be literary!
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a strange, rich dish.

Having read the whole thing afraid that I wouldn't come away with any meaningful idea of what it was about, I was pleased to find I wasn't left totally in the dark. But this is obviously a book for which re-reading or active study would prove beneficial.

Denis Johnson, no stranger to impressiveness, impresses here. Imagine a story involving life after a great apocalypse, pseudo-islander-Spanglish patois, genital self-mutilation, the phrase "You hanging you tits out
Harry Ramble
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a work of post-apocalyptic fiction, but none of the people in it are fleeing zombies or bonding together to overcome terrible hardships or confronting their inner savage. They're all lazing on the beach, waiting for the daily fish catch to arrive, and forgetting. They're forgetting the past; they're forgetting the names of things; they're forgetting their own names. Even the bomb itself, according to Mr. Cheung, says "I will not remember." Mr. Cheung is the last link to the past in ...more
Krok Zero
Jul 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-2008
It's sort of a mistake to characterize this as a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, and genre fans may well be disappointed. In truth, it's more of a piece with Denis Johnson's other work, a story of marginalized people struggling to survive with limited means, jazzed up with Johnson's typicall dazzling prose. There's not a whole lot of narrative to be found here, so you may not feel terribly engaged at first, but stick with it--by the time you finish the book, you'll feel a deep affection for these ...more
Jan 04, 2008 rated it liked it
I didn't love this book, although I did sort of like the characters and the world that Johnson created. I think I know where Johnson was trying to go, but he never really got there. The book just fell flat and felt forced. The ending, I think, was the worst part. Just as the plot picked up and I started to really give a damn about any of the characters, the book ended. I will say that the parts about Mr. Cheung's grandmother were fantastic, and the section where Cheung thinks they have found the ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a novel I would put in the "speculative fiction" category, with qualifications. It is solidly within the post-apocalyptic genre, but, for me at least, there is a lack of "speculation" on what might make a "better world" after we blow it up. The buddhist side of me liked the way he portrayed certain aspects of consciousness, and the weaving of the post-Vietnam War escape tale with the post-nuclear holocaust tale, including a bardo like final scene. The anarchist side of me wanted more ...more
Guy Salvidge
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a bit like Philip K Dick's Doctor Bloodmoney, but more successful overall. It's an oblique, zany after-the-bomb narrative featuring some memorable characters and interesting settings. Set in and around what used to be Key West (now named Twicetown for the two nuclear bombs that failed to detonate there), the story follows, for the most part, 14-year-old Fiskadoro and his clarinet teacher, Mr Cheung. The whole thing has an elegiac feel that works especially well here, especially in the ...more
Hank Stuever
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whenever I wasn't bogged down with readings from the syllabus during my late-'80s college years, I was bonkers for contemporary fiction, and just about anything with these Vintage covers got my attention. This was a really good, really ambitious novel; it wasn't too long after this that everyone was crazy for Denis Johnson. Anyone who's into post-apocalyptica would still dig it.
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Well written. Slightly confusing. Worth reading though. Dialogue was troublesome. I felt it could have achieved a greater climax. The story just kind of petered.
Madiha  Ali
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Out of every Denis Johnson book I have read this one was my favorite.
Alan Gerstle
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent book by the always adventurous denis johnson. R.I.P.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I asked a friend what his favorite book was, and he let me borrow it (Fiskadoro). I usually love post-apocalyptic stories, but this one didn't quite do it for me. There were passages that were beautifully written, and it was successful in creating an undercurrent of menace but there wasn't quite enough plot to suck me in. I felt like the characters weren't developed enough for me to truly care about them, although I did find a section about an older woman remembering a traumatic event in her ...more
Jay Hinman
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A strange and vivid book about a post-nuclear apocalypse Key West, Florida, sometime in the early 21st century. This was Denis Johnson's second novel, and it's a really terrific read. He describes what's like a rebirth of civilization among a group of discarded, likely quarantined people. They go about creating the world all over again, complete with pagan rituals, wide-eyed belief in Gods and ghosts, and community-building akin to the Hunter-Gatherers, with just enough memory of the "old world" ...more
Seth Fiegerman
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
It takes some time to get into this world, with its own language and post apocalyptic reference points, but once you're there it's worth it. This book isn't just a harrowing tale of how we might rebuild civilization after a nuclear hellscape; it's also a meditation on the burden of memory after all manner of losses.

"And today was a big place that held everything inside of it -- the Keys, the sea, the sky and the outer space of stars. Today didn't close around her throats like all the other
Ray Pezzi
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Frustratingly weird with glaring technological plot gaps (decades after a nuclear holocaust, diesel fuel remains just fine and fishermen are motoring out into the Caribbean every day in their diesel-engined boats). The best part, by far, deals with the ancient grandmother's distant memories of her harrowing escape from Viet Nam as the Americans left and the North Vietnamese took over. The rest -- largely a mishmash of semi-intelligible English and severe learning deficiencies -- seems to have ...more
Marzio Salamina
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Denis Johnson doesn't really care for you to understand what he's on about. He just keeps writing down his own stream of visions, sometimes lucidly, most of the time not so.
My teacher at school would have gave me back the sheets and said "well, very creative, now re-write it all with sense, pls".
Seriously, I respect the artistic freedom the author is deeply enjoying here, still I wonder how could the editor/publisher let such long parts of the book being that cryptic, confused and unsolved.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
Denis Johnson is a perfect kind of writer to tackle a postapocalyptic tropical landscape, and this delivers well. There's a mystic, mythic element of Fiskadoro and the other characters that was beautifully wrought alongside what might be called more naturalistic postapocalyptic landscapes. The story is a little shaggy and doesn't quite deliver on what it winds itself up to be, but there are enough transporting passages to make the short book worth a thoughtful read.
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Poet, playwright and author Denis Johnson was born in Munich, West Germany, in 1949 and was raised in Tokyo, Manila and Washington. He earned a masters' degree from the University of Iowa and received many awards for his work, including a Lannan Fellowship in Fiction (1993), a Whiting Writer's Award (1986), the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from the Paris Review for Train Dreams, and most recently, ...more
“My father is dead!" As soon as he'd said it, Fiskadoro saw he'd made it true again--again for the first time. Did it just go around and around? He began to see that his sorrow wasn't simple. It wasn't one thing, but a thousand things carrying him away to the Ocean: the work of a person's life was to drink it.” 11 likes
“But in the deep red event behind the stove’s glass window the filament of time was never tangled, nothing had a name or a reason, everything was itself, and the things she would always know, even if you took her head away, even if you killed her, were confirmed: It catches, then burns, then blazes; it rages and sings, it wanes, it shifts and flares, it burns a little longer and then weakens, whatever it is, and goes out. But if you lay the small wood across it in the morning, it all begins again.” 2 likes
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