The Two-Headed Lady at the End of the World: A Romance Hotter Than a Thousand Suns
Montag Press (December 23, 2022)
Reviewed by Nora B. Peevy
Amanda and Miranda Morgan are identical twins dreaming about first kisses and playing spin the bottle in the ‘80s of rural east Texas, until a secret government particle collider hidden beneath their family farm accidentally conjoins them. Now they must navigate the normal teenage angst of love, hormones, and popularity as two minds trapped in one body–a situation made all the more excruciating because both girls have different dreams and are in love with different boys.
Meanwhile, two devoted military men, Joe and Buck, have been living in an underground bunker for thirty years with no contact from anyone. They realize they’ve fallen in love, and are quite content with their isolation. But when the CPU of their module becomes sentient and threatens to destroy the world, they must make a decision: let it all burn, or save the world that would reject them?
The CPU has a life of his own. Without orders to protect the world from the cold war, he (of course it’s a he!) feels his existence is futile. He falls in love with the Pentagon’s fax machine, but after she rejects his repeated advances, he vows to use the particle collider to return the world to the time of the cold war, to a time when he had purpose and could complete his mission.
The Morgan twins grow up, investigate polyamory, search for autonomy, travel the world, start businesses, and try to find love. They receive an invitation to their thirtieth high school reunion just as the CPU plans to take the world back to the good old 1980s and everything spins out of control!
This book is sort of like throwing Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Buckaroo Banzai, Red Dawn, Weird Science, Spies Like Us, and Rocky IV into a blender with a bunch of Rubik’s Cubes, Debbie Gibson Electric perfume, and acid wash jeans, making a suicidal slurpy, and sipping it as you stroll around the mall listening to The Dead Kennedys on your walkman. Miller makes us see clearly that all the stuff of a Gen X childhood was simply a magic trick designed to distract us from the fact that we were hiding under our desks waiting for the nukes to come. Miller shines a spotlight on the fundamental disconnects we all live(d) with: the bubble-gum fun dancing in the face of impending doom.
I am not going to compare Mark Miller’s writing to another author because there is only one Mark Miller. His humor is quirky and zany and a bright spot in this universe. He makes me laugh out loud. His characters are original. His books are considered absurd literature, but I honestly believe there isn’t a category that best suits him. His social commentary, his sensitivity to issues, the big hearts and dreams he pours into his characters, his humor and irony, all make his work special.
In the end, the last one hundred pages of this book made me cry. These days, I don’t cry very often at writing. But The Two-Headed Lady at the End of the World is a beautiful love poem to what it means to be human, to be alive, to love, and seek love in a world that is ever-changing. I love this book so damn much. The ending is beautiful. It’s perfect. It’s gorgeous. It’s so damn good. It is a symphony to the human heart, to humanity, to existence.