Published by Random House Publishing Group on July 12th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Literary, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
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Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far. It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing. Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
The Last One is one of those books that leaves you gasping for more – it fully immerses you in its pages, until you can’t think about anything else, and, for my, I couldn’t even start a second book until I had finished The Last One because I was thinking about it so much. It’s very rare I feel like I’m actually, genuinely in the novel, like I’m there alongside the characters, but I felt fully immersed in The Last One. I was right there with Zoo, and the other contestants, I was facing what they were facing and it was horrifying.
At it’s heart, this book is the best mash-up of all the reality television you see on your screens week after week – it’s a book I have longed for, forever. I mean reality TV is like one of the highest watched programmes and yet there’s never been a book set in the Big Brother house, or similar, or out in the Australian jungle mimicking I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, when I reckon they were make excellent novels, as proven by The Last One, which is basically about twelve people who go into the woods and last one standing is the winner. But the challenges are brutal – Hunger Games brutal, although you couldn’t escape the Hunger Games at least in The Last One there was a nifty get out phrase if you couldn’t hack it. It was exhausting reading about the challenges and seeing Zoo’s frame of mind as she completes challenge after challenge. Her narrative was absolutely spot-on, I was there with her the whole way, on edge, because I was questioning what was real and what was for the sake of the show.
But it was the third-person narrative that really amazed me, because it allowed us to see all of the contestants, through the veil of how the reality TV folks saw them, warts and all and that was something else. To see the allegiances, and who was there to win, and the spats and the friendships, and the awful, horrible host.
This book is like your worst nightmare come true. But it’s amazing to read. It really does swallow you whole and doesn’t let you go until you’ve finished. I can see why this book was so hotly contested, why it’s being translated into all these amazing languages, because this is a book that needs to be read. This is a book that will give you nightmares for months afterwards, and depending on how the US election goes, could well be America’s next reality. (That is hopefully a joke.) The Last One is a must-read for 2016, and I will definitely be getting the paperback for my keepers shelf because a re-read will be in order, hopefully when a movie comes out…?