Name: Last Ones Left Alive
Author: Sarah Davis-Goff
Number of Pages: 280(Hardback)
Published: January 24th 2019 by Tinder Press
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic
Watch your six. Beware tall buildings. Always have your knives.
Growing up on a tiny island off the coast of a post-apocalyptic Ireland, Orpen’s life has revolved around physical training and necessity. After Mam died, it’s the only way she and her guardian Maeve have survived the ravenous skrake (zombies) who roam the wilds of the ravaged countryside, looking for prey.
When Maeve is bitten and infected, Orpen knows what she should do – sink a knife into her eye socket, and quickly. Instead, she tries to save Maeve, and following rumours of a distant city on the mainland, guarded by fierce banshees, she sets off, pushing Maeve in a wheelbarrow and accompanied by their little dog, Danger. It is a journey on which Orpen will need to fight repeatedly for her life, drawing on all of her training and instincts. In the course of it, she will learn more about the Emergency that destroyed her homeland, and the mythical Phoenix City – and discover a starting truth about her own identity.
Last Ones Left Alive features an Ireland devastated by the Emergency. We never actually find out what this event was, only that it happened before lead character Orpen’s lifetime, and her mother and her partner Maeve retreated to an island to live an isolated existence in order to keep young Orpen safe. Safe did not however mean unprepared, and her parents train Orpen in all matters of survival, including fighting and combat, for the world has been overtaken by skrake, aka zombies, and they’re fierce.
There are two narratives in which we learn of Orpen’s past, and in the present we discover her mother has died and Maeve has been bitten, forcing Orpen to undertake a journey in the hope of finding the elusive Phoenix City, a place not marked on any map, but she believes Maeve knows the location.
There are some heartbreaking scenes throughout as Orpen’s history is slowly revealed, and the violence is bloody and brutal when the skrake attack. Shambling mindless zombies these are not, they’re deadly, strong and fast, and if a person has recently turned, there’s always the chance that at first they’ll appear almost like themselves, for a short time at least. What a prospect to be faced with, knowing there’s only one inevitable conclusion to such an encounter.
Having lived her life on the island, Orpen goes off into the dangerous land of the mainland with many questions. She’s never really encountered people or anything like regular humanity before. Along the way Orpen encounters skrake and people, and the enigmatic banshees, a group she has read about but never encountered before, who become more than just a myth or whisper.
Last Ones Left Alive features a brave young woman setting out on a dangerous journey across a desolate and bleak landscape. She has questions, not all of which will be answered, and I would enjoy a return visit to this skrake- and banshee-inhabited world in the future because there is so much I still want to know.