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The Last


The Last

It’s the end of the world as we know it in Hanna Jameson’s THE LAST. When text alerts and emergency news broadcasts inform guests at the L’Hôtel Sixième in Switzerland that nuclear bombs have destroyed major cities across the globe, chaos descends upon the hotel as guests flee en masse to the airport. But 20 people --- guests and hotel staff --- decide to stay behind and test their luck. Among them is Jon Keller, a historian from the U.S. going through marital troubles, who is here abroad for a conference when the news hits. He spends his days in shock and decides to keep a written account of his experiences in case they are the last ones alive, all while he stews over the last text he sent his wife.

One day, Jon and a few of the other guests go to check their dwindling water supply on the roofs only to discover the body of a little girl in one of the tanks. Jon launches an investigation into her death, but other people at the hotel don’t seem as concerned, and he quickly becomes wary of who exactly he can trust and if her murderer is still on the loose.

"THE LAST would be a good read for lovers of post-apocalyptic fiction and stories of survival. Those who are drawn to character studies may also find enjoyment here."

I loved the book’s premise. The idea of a killer loose in a hotel in the middle of nowhere, all during a nuclear apocalypse, really drew me in. There was a diverse cast of characters, and I enjoyed how each had their own backgrounds and stories of how they wound up at the hotel, how each spoke different languages and held different points of view. I think Jameson truly captured the concept of strangers being forced to work together and how tensions rose in their fight to survive as people grouped against each other. There were a lot of interesting questions posed: Who are you in the dark? How would the end of the world change you? Does your need to survive trump both your morality and your humanity? What is a life worth, and are some people more expendable than others? When the law no longer exists, whose job is it to deliver justice?

I also liked how Jameson captured a lot of the hectic emotions people would experience at the end of the world --- the confusion, the sadness, the shock, the disbelief and the isolation when we lose connection to today’s technology. This was most apparent in the Day 1 flashbacks. The book also dipped into politics a bit, which I know some people aren’t fond of, but I didn’t mind it. The discussions felt warranted for the subject matter and the characters’ states of mind. It had all the staples of post-apocalyptic fiction with dangerous supply runs, search-and-rescue missions, and the eventual “Should we stay safe or risk ourselves by leaving to see what’s left out there?”

However, a lot of Jon’s account came off as dry and lacked emotion, making it difficult for me to relate to him. When the author did include emotion, I felt more attached to the character. Still, I needed more scenes in which Jon revealed how he was feeling. As this is a book set after an apocalypse, there is a lot of death around Jon, but I didn’t get a true sense of his shock. This is where I felt the most distance from him because the story would then move on to something else without the emotional unpacking that I was looking for. The book reads like a narrative summary in a few too many places. I wanted to feel like I was there with Jon experiencing what he felt and saw firsthand instead of just being told.

I also thought that the majority of the story lacked any conflict, stakes, tension or suspense, and that the murder mystery plot plodded along at times. Jon would discover interesting plot-relevant things and then just sit on the information, not taking action until chapters later for no substantial reason, if he took any action at all. I suppose that the murdered girl storyline isn’t urgent since she’s already dead, but the possibility of the killer being someone in the hotel who isn’t on the roster is reason enough to keep investigating. And yet that plot kept falling by the wayside in favor of the more mundane things going on in the hotel. Jameson focused more on the psychology of people during crisis and the bigger questions surrounding morality and humanity --- which is fine, it’s just not what I was expecting from the murder mystery premise.

THE LAST would be a good read for lovers of post-apocalyptic fiction and stories of survival. Those who are drawn to character studies may also find enjoyment here. Although there is a bit of a mystery element, if your expectations going in are for a murder mystery, this may not be the book for you. Jameson’s novel is about a story of survival and the struggle to retain humanity when the world ends.

Reviewed by Abby Jackson on April 19, 2019

The Last
by Hanna Jameson