Name: The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson
Number of Pages: 392 (Hardback)
Published: January 31st 2019 by Viking
Genre: Mystery, Post-Apocalyptic
Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead
Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm
Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.
Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.
Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that 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 kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?
In The Last a nuclear attack has apparently bought about an end-of-the-world scenario. Communications fail, the internet is lost and it is unclear which areas if any have survived the devastation. In a hotel in Switzerland a group of strangers band together in the aftermath.
They’ve survived, in the short-term, but their continued existence means they will need to trust each other and work together as a team, which may prove difficult upon the discovery of at least one body, leading to the suspicion that a killer may be among the group.
The story is told through the diary entries (although he insists it isn’t a diary) of Jon Keller, a historian staying at the hotel for a conference who remained behind as his colleagues fled. He documents life in the days following the main event, and tells various tales, some of daily life around the hotel, some of the people he meets if they are willing to talk about their past lives.
We get glimpses of many lives, and some strange stories. There are missing relatives, possible hauntings, arguments, clashes and friendship.
The setting is really good; this huge hotel, isolated out in the wilderness would be atmospheric enough, but there’s the added danger of the end-of-the-world, and the threat that may come from unknown quarters. The hotel is so huge that it is suggested there may be people there of whom the original group have no knowledge, which in itself is creepy, and later more direct threats add to the air of tension. There is definitely something a little sinister about the place.
I thought the murder mystery element may be more central to the plot, whereas it went more down the line of day to day survival. Various scenarios involving conflicted groups of people throw up a number of questions, touching on ethical and moral issues.
Then there are more direct questions – Are there other survivors? Have they been into the hotel without the original group knowing? Are they a threat? And what will happen when supplies run out and the hotel is no longer a safe haven?
For all this the pacing felt quite slow at times, offering more character-based issues than big action scenes, although when people did venture out of the hotel to find out what if anything of the world remained I did enjoy those scenes.
While I enjoyed The Last it was a book that I had looked forward to for so long I thought I’d absolutely love it. You know that sometimes you get over-hyped? I think that may have happened for me with this one.