“You know what we think of as right and wrong don’t exist anymore. Everything that happened before, it has no meaning now.”
The Last is a very compelling read. The story has plenty of atmosphere, well-rounded characters, and poses a lot of interesting questions.
I wouldn’t necessarily describe this as yet another post-apocalyptic novel…to do so seems reductive. The Last depicts the way in which a group of people once isolated —cut off from the rest of society—could act. There is tension underlining a lot of the characters’ interactions especially after they discover the body of a young girl in one of the hotel’s water tanks.
It is Jon, our narrator and an American historian, who decides to find out who killed this mysterious girl. Was she murdered before the nuclear attacks? Is her murderer still in the hotel? While the others believe that the girl’s death has little importance compared to what could possibly be the end of the civilisation as they know it…but Jon is determined to find out what exactly happened to this girl.
His investigation is impeded by their situation…the approaching winter season, their dwindling resources, and a growing sense of unrest interfere with Jon’s search for the murderer’s identity.
I thought that that the author did a brilliant job. Jon’s account —which takes the form of a diary of sorts— pulled me right in. As time passes, and as he and the others attempt to come to terms with their new ‘nightmarish’ reality, Jon revisits that ‘first day’, when he first heard/saw the news about the nuclear attacks. Grief, guilt, and shock, make an impact on both Jon and his account.
Being a historian, he wants to ‘commit to paper’ the history, and experiences of the other survivors. Also, as he begins to suspect that the girl’s murderer is still at the hotel, ‘interviewing’ the others gives him the chance to carry out his investigation.
Jon and the other survivors felt very fleshed out. I loved the way in which Jameson can make you care or respect characters who are rather unlikable. Jon’s account is not always reliable yet I ended up really liking him. He has retained a strong sense of justice (view spoiler) and while he might not always say the right thing, he could be incredibly understanding and kind. I also appreciated the way in which his ‘bravery’ is different from the usual ‘act/shoot’ now sort of bravery. Just because he is a thinker, and not a fighter, doesn’t make unable to act in order to help the others. Of course, given the situation he is in, it isn’t at all surprising that he begins to suspect some of his fellow survivors.
The survivors at the hotel come from different backgrounds. They are shown to have different personalities and priorities, and often clash in their views on politics etc. Funnily enough, I ended up really appreciating Tomi, the only American other than Jon.At the start I found her grating and once we discover that she voted for Trump…well, I really hated her. Yet, as things get more tense, she shows that she has plenty of courage and can be incredibly loyal. By the end, I understood and respected her, flaws and all.
I also really liked Nathan, the former bartender of the hotel, Yuka Yobari, who is at the hotel alongside her family, and Rob, who is possibly the sweetest character of them all.
As the novel progresses I found the creepy setting and the mounting tension among the survivors to be nerve-racking.
Jameson’s novel poses a lot of interesting questions; do laws and justice still matter in the even of a a societal collapse? What would you be prepared to do when it comes to us vs. them/me vs. you in order to survive?
“…we’re friends,” I said.
Jessie laughed. “Are you serious? It’s the end of the world, Jon. Grow up.”
The ending did feel rushed —especially when compared to the rest of Jon’s narrative— but I wasn’t disappointed by the story’s conclusion.
The Last is a compelling page-turning novel with a story that gives readers plenty of food for thought.