*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to NetGalley and Penguin. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: BREAKING: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilisation, 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?
The Last is just way too believable, from start to finish.
The story is told in the diary-style narrative of Jon Keller as he attempts to impartially record the end of the world (as we know it).
Jon is a bit of an odd character, adapting to everyone around him; swallowing his emotions; and volunteering for everything, in a manner that suggests his narrative may be more self-serving than reliable in places, or that he is seriously overcompensating for something.
All of the characters introduced here are complex and feel ‘real’ to the reader, whether likeable or not. Actions and motives are not always clear because the reasoning behind them is as convoluted or obscure as in reality, and no one is bad or good, just motivated differently and acting from different interests. Hanna Jameson’s exploration of the different reactions that such a severe stress situation could have on individuals felt thorough and thoroughly believable, and had me analysing where my own character would fall in the survival spectrum (I don’t think I would have lasted past Day 1, for the record!).
Whilst the story does feature post-apocalyptic survival, that is not where the plot focus lies, with resource-finding taking a back seat to the emotional pressures and food/water/medicine never seeming quite as important to survival as finding the right personal motivation and your own mental stability. Thus Jon’s focus on finding out who the unknown girl is, and who murdered her, seems much more vital to his continued existence as a human being than mere physical necessities. I found this a fascinating and compelling viewpoint and it really made me ponder exactly what would be important to me in the end days. Most stories assume that survival instincts would take the steering wheel, but the urge to behave in human ways can be a strong one…
I went into The Last expecting it to be a kind of post-apocalyptic And Then There Were None, but this is not that story. Instead it is a pressure-cooker of a psychological thriller, slowly simmering towards its boiling point, and also a deeply thoughtful look into human values and priorities under pressure. I found it impossible to stop reading, and after the last page I almost wanted to search for the ‘survivors’ on social media to see what happened next, as I was so invested in their stories!
Fans of psychological mysteries and realistic survival stories will enjoy this thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking book.
A strange noise erupted from one of the tables, a shrill exclamation. The woman didn’t say anything, just cried out.
I looked up, and she was sitting with her partner – I assume – and staring at her phone.
Like everyone else in the room, I thought she had just become overexcited by a message or a photo, and returned to my book, but within seconds she’s added, ‘They’ve bombed Washington!’
I hadn’t even wanted to go to this damn convention.
– Hanna Jameson, The Last
The Last is available at Amazon (and other good bookshops) right now!