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Literature / Jam

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It's about an apocalypse. With jam in it.
I woke up one morning to find that the entire city had been covered in a three-foot layer of man-eating jam.

I didn't notice straight away.

Jam is a post-apocalyptic novel from 2012 by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, with a twist, and even a couple of satirical jabs at some of the apocalypse genre's recurring tropes.

Travis, an unemployed everyman from Brisbane, wakes up one morning to discover that the city has been covered in a thick layer of a red, sticky substance that smells distinctly of strawberry, not too much unlike jam. The problem, however, is that the substance has one major characteristic that it doesn't share with jam: it devours any organic matter that comes too close to it, including humans.

Travis and his friend Tim are forced to band together with a group of other survivors, and together they attempt to stay alive until rescue hopefully arrives, which is really tricky when you can't get down to street level without getting eaten.


  • Action Survivor: Tim tries a little too hard to be this.
  • After the End: Starts during the day the jam broke out, and the story runs over the week immediately after it.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Carnivorous jam in Brisbane (although it's implied to have covered all of Australia).
  • Anyone Can Die: Every major character except Travis and Don dies. Deidre/Princess Ravenhair possibly survived, though the book ends before we can confirm that.
  • Apocalypse How: Almost a Regional class 3, with only the part of the population above ground level surviving the initial event.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Angela attempts to keep one. The battery for her camcorder ran out after day 1, but she felt it was too important to stop.
  • Armies Are Evil: Played with. Y is a frighteningly-good soldier who willingly murders a lot of people whenever ordered to, and X goes to murderous lengths to conceal her and Y's part in the jampocalypse. Plus, the American Navy quarantines the entire country and fires upon those who try to escape. However, Y was a pretty moral person and obeying those orders caused him a lot of psychological grief; also, the quarantine thing was a big misunderstanding. Once they know the truth, the entire American Navy basically does a mass Heel–Face Turn by turning in their superiors.
  • Ascended Extra: Don, one of the characters in Croshaw's book Mogworld, is a main character.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Travis is wondering how to feed his spider. Unfortunately, he's not very bright.
    Travis: Hey. What do spiders eat?
    Don: Depends on the breed.
    Travis: Okay. So what do Goliath birdeaters eat?
    Don: <stares at Travis> At an educated guess, I'd say, Christmas pudding and milkshakes.
    Travis: Are you being sarcastic?
    Don: No.
  • Ass Shove: Don threatens to do this to a Hibatsu employee who uses his build as a drinks coaster.
    Don:You think I'm saying that idly, I'm not! I'm going to use forceps and lubricant!
  • Bad Liar:
    • X, much to Angela's increasing frustration:
    "I can see you're thinking this seems like totally irrational behavior," said X. She was pausing between each word in a stalling kind of way. "But I can quite easily put this whole matter to rest with the very simple and straightforward explanation for it."
    The last ten words or so had taken close to half a minute. "Well?" said Angela?
    "Honestly, it's hardly worth stating the explanation I'm about to give because you'll all realize how massively obvious it is when you think about it."
    Angela banged her first on the side of the fridge, frustrated. "How can you be a secret government agent when you're so bad at lying?!"
    "I'm not a secret government agent," said X, lying badly.
    • Don isn't much better when he tries to deny knowing Y, who then starts shooting arrows at them.
    Girl: You do know him. Who is he?
    Travis: Nice save, Don.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor woobieish Travis just can't catch a break what with everybody around him either dying, trying to murder him or shouting a lot. Also Dierdre when Lord Awesomo dies and Angela when she learns that the jampocalypse was a pointless accident.
  • Brick Joke: Tim wildly theorises early on that the jam might be allergic to peanut butter. Dr Thorn refers to the anti-jam compound HEPL created by the nickname "Peanut Butter".
  • Cassandra Truth: At one point, X says the Jam wasn't released as a deliberate attack. Angela believes her for all of five minutes. Turns out, Y left a sample on the roof of his and X's car and the container broke when they drove off.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mary. Also HEPL. And Y's trousers. In a darker and more literal sense, Dr. Thorn's sniper rifle.
  • Creator Provincialism: Yahtzee lived in Brisbane when he wrote the novel.
  • Dark Messiah: Lord Awesomo serves as one of these, despite his claims that it's "only ironic". Tim later tries for this more naturally.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Don's role is to do this and little else.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Apocalypse, or at least the popular Internet pastime of planning for such hypothetical events as the Zombie Apocalypse. As discussed here, one of the main points of the novel is that if the apocalypse were to occur, there's no guarantee that it would be caused by something pop culture has prepared you for.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The jam obviously. It destroys everything organic but leaves most of the infrastructure intact.
  • Determinator: Don will get his hard drive back if it's the last thing he ever does. He succeeds. ...though the hard drive is destroyed not long afterward.
  • Dude, Not Ironic: The central gag of the Bagmen living in a mall is that their group was founded by a bunch of Hipsters on some survivalist internet forum, who constantly misuse the term irony due to Memetic Mutation. Tim eventually calls them out on this while campaigning to become their new leader.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Most character are either profoundly neurotic in some way, and the few who aren't are being dragged along.
  • Everyman: Travis had nothing to do with the jampocalypse, and he isn't in on any sort of conspiracy. He's just an ordinary guy caught in a bad situation.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The war between Lord Awesomo and the Hibatsu executives. With X and Y also thrown in as a third side, which is also basically evil.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Tim. He wants to be the hero that the world will depend on to save them from the jampocalypse. But the Awful Truth is that not only has the jam only affected Australia, but the entire spread of the jam was a complete accident because of X and Y. There's no conspiracy, there's no greater plan, and the world doesn't need Tim to help anyone; everybody's just fine without him. After Tim finds this out, he loses what little sanity he had left, and decides that he's going to spread the jam across the entire world so he can be the hero that stops it.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Travis calls his huge tarantula "Mary".
  • Foreshadowing: At one point Angela contemplates whether, if they were in a movie, the protagonist would be Tim or Don. She decides that if this truly is the apocalypse then Tim is the visionary hero, whereas if the Jam is localized Don is the Only Sane Man. It's localized, and Don survives while Tim perishes.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Almost everyone but Travis starts doing this as a defense mechanism. By day four they're getting annoyed at him for still getting upset when people die. Averted with X, who spends the rest of the book in mourning after Y dies.
  • Fun with Acronyms: X and Y mistake a misspelling of HELP for Human Extinction Protocol Libra.
  • Gang of Hats: The two main opposing factions of survivors display rather noticeable quirks. Lord Awesomo’s Bagmen are covered head-to-toe in plastic and act like pretentious hipsters who treat the supposed apocalypse like a game even when reality would demonstrate otherwise. The Hibatsu corporation wear stereotypical tribalistic dress fashioned from mundane office supplies but still operate effectively using corporate jargon and buzzwords.
  • Godwin's Law: Whenever Tim compares a group of survivors to Nazi Germany, Don is quick to call him out on it, calling him a communist.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Played with. It's questionable how well a majority of the cast is retaining their sanity in the face of the jampocalypse, but they also acclimatize to the situation quite well nonetheless. Tim acclimatizes a bit too well, and he goes mad at the revelation that it isn't the real apocalypse.
  • Government Conspiracy: Zig-zagged. It's clear from the start that X and Y know more than they admit to, and Angela is convinced that they're part of an American governmental conspiracy. They aren't, but the American government is covering up their colossal cock-up.
  • Grey Goo: The Jam converts all organic matter it touches into more of itself. It's compared to the classic "Grey Goo eats everyone and covers the earth" scenario a few times.
  • Hazmat Suit: Home-made out of trash bags and tape.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: X and Y.
    • After first travelling with Tim, Don and Travis, Y cuts a deal with Hibatsu to suppress the mall survivor colony and kills many of them, as he was trying to fulfill his end of the bargain to protect and extract X, as they had means of communication to the outside. He did what he had to, even nearly killing the protagonists, but it obviously caused him major psychological grief. After his death, it was revealed that, in a turn of corporate phrasing, it was just a sheet they had put on the side of their building.
  • Heroic Wannabe: When the titular jam starts attacking Australia, Tim assumes the role of the hero who will unite the people and save the world from the apocalypse. When he discovers that the Jam broke out because of an accident and the event has only affected Australia, he quickly loses his sanity and immediately decides to spread the jam across the rest of the world so he can still be the hero and rebuild society.
  • Hidden Depths: Pretty-much everyone except Travis and Don (who, weirdly, are then the only ones to survive.)
  • Hipster: Lord Awesomo and his followers. They're ironically evil. Because not being evil is too mainstream. Saner (or rather less insane) characters make a point of telling them that people are actually dying and being murdered.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Tim's fatal flaw. Don accurately points out that his Action Survivor identity is nothing more than a way to make the apocalypse all about himself, a fact echoed by his need to be the one who leads humanity's surviving remnants, first in the group, then among the Plastic People, Hibatsu and the Obi Wan. Finding out that this isn't a worldwide apocalypse and that the human race never had or would depend upon him personally is what finally pushes him over the edge.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Tim and Travis both have basic tactical knowledge from playing strategy video games. Dub mocks them mercilessly for it, but their analysis is right on the money more often than not.
  • Improvised Weapon: Y makes himself a bow-and-arrow out of some sticks and a pair of underpants. The Hipster Cult makes spears out of broomsticks and kitchen knives, and later a stun-gun out of a nerfgun with darts soaked in pepper spray, finally and an a flamethrower out of a barbecue starter, two pieces of wood, and three cans of hairspray.
    • Using things lying around their office, Hibatsu had jury rigged a full-scale catapult that used office hardware (printers, filing cabinets) as ammunition. They also made improvised bows, crossbows, and slingshots to shoot box cutter blades, glass, and sharpened DVDs. They prove quite useful considering how given the nature of the jam, you don't necessarily need to directly hit the target - you just need to damage the bags they're wearing.
  • Industrialized Evil: Hibatsu, who applied their corporate thinking to surviving the apocalypse, and are using cold pragmatism to bring what's left of Brisbane under their sway.
  • Insane Troll Logic: X insists that, since she destroyed Y's ID card, he never had an ID card to begin with, because "if he did, there'd be a card. Since there isn't, we're done here".
    • Semi-justified in that X is a government agent trying to cover it all up, but she's also a very Bad Liar. Insane Troll Logic is pretty much all she has.
    • The plastic men formed an "ironic" cult around a guy named Crazy Bob. While they don't sincerely subscribe to a belief system, they do things like kill their members for minor crimes against Crazy Bob (eating his yogurt), and wage a hopeless assault in "ironic holy war" which expends dozens of lives. For a cult they're "ironically" following.
  • Insistent Terminology: Angela is not a journalist, she is a journalism student.
  • Irony: The inhabitants of the mall form a death cult based around irony, or at least what they understand to be irony. For instance, one of their leaders, Princess Ravenhair, is blonde.
    • They also REALLY emphasize the word whenever they say it (pronounced "eye-RRRRRON-ic" according to Yahtzee's narration).
    • Also, the jam was released as a direct result of HEPL trying to work out how they would save the day if the jam was ever released.
    • At one point (after running into the aforementioned cult), Tim notes that all the Crazy Survivalist types hiding outside the city would have been among the first to go. When Travis describes this as ironic, Tim is not amused.
    • The group eventually learns the origins of the jam and that it's both possible and likely that a means to stop it is coming soon. Upon hearing this, Tim's need to be a hero causes him to murder the man who's attempting to stop the jam, make plans to spread it around the world, and prepare to murder Travis to ensure he doesn't warn anyone else, all just so he can live in a world where his "heroism" continues to be necessary.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Don and Tim aren't exactly nice people and Angela isn't far behind, but they juggle the Sanity Ball between them on a regular basis. By the end, Don ends up winning gold on both counts - crazy as his obsession with his Build may be, his assessment about Tim is entirely accurate, which Angela cops to.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Dr Thorn tries to use a sniper scope as a telescope. While the sniper rifle is still loaded.
  • Just Following Orders: Y literally does nothing but follow orders. It's kinda scary.
  • Kill the Cutie: Angela dies while trying to save her previously-Arch-Enemy X.
  • Lemony Narrator: Largely, the entire appeal of the book.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Parodied when Travis and X get locked in a kitchen fridge. There's only just enough room for them both. And they're semi-naked at the time. And there's only enough air for a few minutes.
  • MacGuffin: Don's build. It doesn't even survive in the end.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: X and Y accidentally released the jam by leaving it on the roof of their car.
  • Mistaken for Apocalypse: It turns out that the jam's flooding is localized. While chunks of Australia have been flooded with the jam, the rest of the world is fine and HEPL is coming close to a means of neutralizing it.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: HEPL did cause the destruction of Australia, but it was an accident brought on by one person's careless negligence; they were trying to protect Australia from the Jam.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Both Hibatsu and the ironic cult of Crazy Bob take this approach to pretty-much every single problem they encounter.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Firing a flamethrower into a knickknack shop? Full of wood and accelerants? Really, Tim?
  • Nearly Normal Animal: Mary, responding to the events happening around her almost as a human would.
    • However, this is subverted multiple times, as it's revealed that Travis is projecting an anthropomorphic personality onto the spider. This is mentioned first by Don, who snidely observes Travis' assumption that Mary is female, saying that it says a lot about him. Later, Travis' own unhinged subconscious remarks that he sees what he wants to see in Mary, and that Mary - being a spider - has no personality to speak of.
  • No Name Given: X and Y (although it's eventually revealed that X's real name is Yolanda. X also lets slip that Y's real name begins with S, but that's all).
  • Ocean Madness: After floating on a lifeboat for a while, Travis begins to talk to himself, and mis-attributes the replies to his spider. His own crazy voice even says he's not doing it right, since he's speaking the imagined voice out loud instead of it happening inside of his head.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Don believes himself to be this, and he might actually be right if he wasn't pathologically obsessed with his video game.
    • Tim also thinks of himself this way. As his Face–Heel Turn and Sanity Slippage prove, he is very wrong.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Travis notices in Hibatsu building that Don isn't getting angry, he's immediately distressed and knows that Don is troubled by the fate of his hard drive.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Lampshaded and deconstructed. Travis has almost no will of his own, going along with the group's ever-shifting leadership and is routinely ignored, pushed around, verbally abused, or exploited. Travis likewise tends to go along with plans he knows are bad ideas, fails to share vital information at key points, and caves easily when faced with more forceful authority figures. He lacks the drive to either stand up for himself or leave, and his need to believe someone respects him leads him to invent Mary's role as Team Pet.
  • Religion of Evil: The ironic cult of Crazy Bob. They want to destroy the world because it's ironic, not really understanding what irony is. Ironically.
  • Roof Hopping: The only way to get around without a boat or plastic bags.
  • Running Gag: On a Meta level, Yatzee's habit of giving ThunderCats a Shout-Out.
  • Sanity Slippage: None of the main characters are the most socially adjusted people alive, and things just get worse as the pressure mounts. Tim gets the worst of it though, as he fully snaps and undergoes a Face–Heel Turn because he wants to be a hero.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The jam before it was unleashed on Brisbane.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Frank, the first "on-camera" death, and a survivor who got washed off the deck of the Everlong. Then the jam happily eats the bones too, though those take a little longer to "digest".
  • Shout-Out: Several to Mogworld, which may double as Continuity Nods since they seem to take place in the same universe.
    • "I think that's a trebuchet."
    • Half-Life: The jam was supplied (and possibly created) by a research facility in New Mexico.
    • Possibly unintentional, but still: a female character who remains Only Known by Their Nickname throughout the majority of the story is revealed to be named Yolanda.
    • Naming the spider that Travis is talking to (and not getting a response from) Mary may have been a been a joke about Silent Hill 2.
  • Super-Soldier: Y. He easily takes on multiple opponents in situations where anyone else would be at a severe disadvantage, and can improvise weapons out of almost any materials at hand.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Travis is the one character that rarely if ever does anything proactive. Angela notes that if this was a film, the main character would be either Tim or Don, depending on whether this was a world-wide apocalypse or just a localized one.
  • Team Pet: Mary. Deconstructed as she's more of a burden than she lets on and all her Team Pet-ish behavior is all in Travis' head.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Kathy reaches out to touch the jam coming through the window. It promptly eats her alive.
  • Tsundere: Don.
    • "I-it's not like I want you to come work with me, idiot!"
  • The Unreveal: Who created the jam, Y's name (though it begins with an "S"), and Deirdre's fate are all never revealed.
  • We Just Need to Wait for Rescue: Don insists that this is not the end of civilization as they know it, and that the best course of action is to be saved. Interestingly, this mentality actually spurs him into action: sticking with the Americans as he believes they will be rescued first and attempting to retrieve his build as it would be needed in a non-post-apocalyptic world.
  • The Worm That Walks: The Jam is referred to as a "swarm" by X and Dr Thorn.
  • You Keep Using That Word: As Tim points out, the cultists don't really know what irony is. To make things stupidly simple; they confuse "sarcasm" with "irony"; very common with hipsters. They also love the "we're doing it literally but rolling our eyes while we do it" variant, like being "ironically" evil by "ironically" executing people for petty reasons.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Discussed. "Move into the mall and loot the shops" was the Hipster Cult's Zombie Contingency Plan, the back cover states "we... could have dealt with zombies", and Y is compared to a zombie when Lord Awesomeo shoots him.