Fast-paced and thought-provoking, THE LAST feels startling plausible but ultimately fails to live up to its initial promise
Often the things that scare us the most aren’t things like ghosts and ghouls but real-life situations that have the potential to change our lives forever. In her latest book, Hanna Jameson plays on that very fear as she explores a dystopian view of the future following a world-wide nuclear attack.
Historian Jon Keller is on a business trip in Switzerland when the world ends. As news of a nuclear attack in Washington, as well as London, Munich, Paris and other major cities around the world come to light, Jon and the survivors realise that they are alone. Just twenty people remain in the hotel with nothing to do but wait and survive. On top of this, the body of a small girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks meaning 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 happens if the killer doesn’t want to be found?
What initially strikes you about THE LAST is the way in which it is written. Most books set in a post-apocalyptic environment are fraught with death, horror and misery but here, Jameson chooses not to focus on the battle for survival but the personal reflections one may experience as the world around them crumbles.
Feeling compelled to keep a record of the people isolated with him in a vast hotel, the story is told in a ‘journal-style’ format as Jon collect stories and feelings in the faint hope that some sort of civilisation will survive long enough to rediscover them. Through his diary, we experience what it would be like to hear that the world around you has ended but to be totally disconnected from the horrific events.
Yet, despite its interesting concept, THE LAST doesn’t quite live up to its original promise. Firstly, the main character Jon is not hugely likeable. While this is clearly intentional (throughout the course of the book, Jon reveals things about himself that you can’t help but dislike), it does mean you aren’t really personally invested in his story.
To drive the story forward, Jameson also throws a murder into the mix but sadly, it just didn’t grab me in the way I hoped. Like the other residents in the hotel, you wonder why Jon is so obsessed with finding out what happened to the young girl, especially when there are more concerning things to worry, about such as the lack of food or the threat of radiation poisoning.
But what’s even more disappointing is the ending. After a strong start to the book with plenty of tension, the final 10% just feels rushed, cliched and lacking in cohesiveness. The book ends so suddenly and abruptly that you are left feeling a little cheated, which is unfortunate as it detracts from, what up until then, had been an excellent story.
That said, THE LAST is certainly a thought-provoking read and I found myself questioning what I would do if I were in the same situation. In our current global political climate, it also feels startling plausible, which makes it all the more scary and impactful.
THE LAST by Hanna Jameson is published via Penguin Books UK on 31 January 2019
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.