Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.
Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.
Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.
As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.77 out of 5
31st January 2019 by Viking
Nadia once told me that she was kept awake at night by the idea that she would read about the end of the world on a phone notification. It wasn’t exactly Kennedy’s Sword of Damocles speech, but I remember that moment word for word.
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’m a little late on reviewing this ARC even though I did read it before the release date.
Why am I late in reviewing? Life, mainly. It gets in the way sometimes. The second reason was because I struggled to think of what to say about The Last.
I know I enjoyed it. I know that I couldn’t wait to see how it would end because I genuinely couldn’t work out where the author was going with the story. But I also think I enjoyed it more for the sum of its parts rather than as a whole and it’s hard to put into words as to why.
The majority of the characters are awful. I don’t mean that they are awful characters, but they are awful people. The circumstances in which they find themselves bring out the worst in the them, the protagonist included. This I don’t mind. I don’t necessarily like wholesome characters. If you don’t either then you’re good with this one because I wouldn’t say anyone here is wholesome.
Our main character Jon is trying to work out who murdered a young girl in post Apocalyptic Zurich but his reasons aren’t exactly noble. He’s not driven by a sense of justice for the child but more a sense of boredom and desperation for him to be relevant amongst the group of survivors. If justice is a side order of his amateur investigation then great, but the main dish is his validation.
The path he takes as self assigned ‘detective’ means he has access to the range of characters and they are a varied bunch. Via his questioning of them Jon manages to obtain a sense of who they are and establishes a bond with those he connects with.
Again, not all are wholesome. If you don’t like self-centred and self-serving characters (either as a main character or secondary) than the people here are going to piss you off.
But it wasn’t the characters that felt a little lacking to me or the setting (a creepy hotel surrounding by forest in isolated Zurich) or even the plot because like I said, I was gripped for the most part.
So what was lacking? This is a book that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Is it an introspective look at human nature when we are at our very worst? A social commentary on the political climate of the times we live in and the repercussions of governmental and voting decisions? A post apocalyptic horror that wants to be The Walking Dead with the zombies? Or is it a crime thriller?
I actually thought it would be more the latter and if you are also thinking this and are going into The Last hoping that’s the case then I think you’ll be disappointed. I liked the introspective look at what humanity might be like after it all goes wrong but aside from the dead girl acting as a plot device for Jon and to be included in a dubious ending then it’s really not about the murder at all.
For me, The Last painted a situation that felt real in the event of a nuclear apocalypse. Medical supplies dwindling, toxic rain, extreme paranoia, and characters who feel that they get to determine how their new society is constructed. Guy worried about the amount of ‘breeding females’ there are and whether he’ll get access to them? Creepy. But I feel worryingly realistic.
The book took a strange turn a third of the way towards the end with the introduction of a plot more akin to something you would find in The Walking Dead and the weirdest resolution to the murder that just felt like an anti-climax. If you skimmed past any of the stories that the characters tell Jon about their pasts (like me) then your first reaction to the ending will be confusion.
The seed of the resolution is planted in an obscure story told by one of the other characters which was so obscure you wouldn’t think it would have any connection. But it did. So there’s that.
If you want a genre confused book with asshole characters that is somehow surprisingly gripping, this is your book. If you want a straight up murder crime thriller then this isn’t your book.
I liked it and I liked what it was trying to do but sometimes I wondered if it was trying too hard and so as a whole it didn’t quite stick together.