The Last by Hanna Jameson
Best for: Anyone who enjoyed Station Eleven, or who likes the post-apocalypse genre and is looking for one aimed at adults.
In a nutshell: Nuclear War has started. Two months later, 20 people remain at a hotel deep into a Swiss forest. A child is discovered dead. History professor Jon decides to document what has happened, and what happens next.
Worth quoting: “A lot of people confuse movement with progress.”
Why I chose it: Buy one get one half off sale. I’d chosen American Marriage, and was scanning for another. This had a recommendation by Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven), so I picked it up.
What happens when the world ends not from an outbreak of disease, but from a day of nuclear war? If you are nowhere near the blasts, how do you survive? Do you want to survive? What is your life like?
For the guests at this hotel in Switzerland, they have plenty of food, comfortable hotel beds, and water. No internet, and rationed electricity. What do they do? Should they explore beyond the hotel? Try to get to their homes? Do their homes exist anymore?
That’s enough to try to figure out but then a dead girl is found in one of the water towers. Millions – possibly billions – have already died. But this is a death close to home, and for Jon, it means something to try to find justice for her. While also grappling with the existential crisis of a completely different world than the one that existed before he arrived at this hotel for a conference.
The book appears to be suggesting that Trump is why the nuclear blasts happened. This leads to an interesting discussion about the responsibility of those who voted for him. In a nod to the 53% of white women who voted for him in 2016, the one US citizen at the hotel who voted for him is indeed a white women. The characters are complicated – no one is outright evil, everyone appears to be just doing their best in a shitty situation.
I think the only thing that I could take any issue with were a couple of word choices that the US folks in the story made that are very much British English terms: tannoy (megaphone) and mitigating circumstances (which is the specific term for seeking some allowance or delay in an exam or paper because of something beyond a student’s control). I’d never heard either of those terms used in that way until I moved the UK. But that’s really the only thing I could take issue with.
Oh! Sorry, one more thing, which is the publisher’s fault, not the author. The back jacket reads “You and nineteen other survivors hole up in an isolated Swiss hotel. You wait, you survive. Then you find the body. One of your number has blood on their hands. The race is on to find the killer … before the killer finds you.” That’s … not a great description of the book. Yes, there is a murder and yes, the protagonist spends a fair bit of time focused on that. But this isn’t a thriller about finding a murderer, per se. It’s a thriller, but the thriller isn’t just about that, if that makes sense. In fact, I’d argue that’s a side story. So if you’re looking for a straightforward thriller, this isn’t it. But hopefully you’ll still pick it up, because it’s really good.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Pass to a Friend