Saturday, August 31, 2019

Contemplative Post-Apocalyptic Novel Absorbing, Thought-Provoking

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"It was as if the building itself had drawn us to it from the most far-flung corners of the world.  And when we arrived, the world had ended" (143).

In Switzerland for an academic conference, Jon Keller—a history professor at Stanford—is staying at L'Hôtel Sixième.  Featuring 1000 rooms, breathtaking views, and a fading elegance, the isolated resort sprawls on acres of lovely country land in the middle of nowhere.  This becomes a problem when frantic news reports announce that nuclear bombs have fallen on major cities in both Europe and the U.S.  Panicked guests stampede to the door, speeding toward the nearest airport and train station.  With no transportation left, Jon and a handful of others become stranded at the hotel.  As news stations and the Internet shut down, they're left with zero information, no viable means of escape, and little hope for survival.

Two months after the disaster strikes, Jon is one of 20 or so people still living in the hotel.  Some have since wandered off or committed suicide; those who remain eke out a semblance of a life, trying to stave off the boredom and cabin fever that rules their lives.  With supplies dwindling, the guests also must figure out how to find more food, protect themselves against roving bands of desperate survivors, and whether or not it's time to move on from what has been a relatively safe haven.  While these conflicts plague the hotel community, another problem arises—the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the building's water tanks.  Horrified, Jon vows to find out what happened to her.  The situation at the resort is bad enough without having a cold-blooded murderer among them.  As their patchwork society crumbles around them, Jon and his comrades search for the killer among them while battling to hold on to not just their sanity but their very humanity.

The Last by Hanna Jameson is an intriguing genre mash-up that combines a compelling murder mystery with a tense dystopian/post-apocalyptic survival tale.  It's not a pulse-pounding thriller, but more of a contemplative study of human nature.  Which isn't to say it's boring.  It's not.  In fact, it's an engrossing novel that asks some interesting questions about right and wrong, self-interest vs. community, what truly matters when the world has gone to hell, and what makes us human.  While I didn't end up loving The Last, I did find it an absorbing, thought-provoking read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, blood/gore, depictions of illegal drug use, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Last from Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

3 comments:

  1. Stranded at an isolated resort when the world ends is a unique take on this genre. I'd give it a try just for that.

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  2. Such an interesting concept to combine a post-apocolyptic setting with a thriller/mystery.

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  3. I've got this one to read at some point. I was intrigued by the concept of 'end of the world' and 'murder mystery' mashup. Reminds me a bit of Ben Winters' trilogy that starts with The Last Policeman.

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