Book Review: The Last: A Novel by Hanna Jameson

The Last: A Novel by Hanna Jameson
My rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4 stars)
Publisher: Atria Books (April 9, 2019)

Though I thought this would be mostly about the murder discovered in the days after a global nuclear attack, this turned out to be a quieter apocalyptic story with the murder mystery receding into the background at times and ultimately being secondary to something that seemed totally unrelated at the outset.

There's plenty of humanity on display and of course, it's not always pretty. Jon Keller, our narrator has highs and lows but remains a narrator that can be trusted for the most part. He did do things that grated on my nerves (being sworn to secrecy & completely outing the secret numerous times without thinking about the consequences and often on his on whims of how he felt about the person he either told or was telling on). He seemed fickle to me but I afforded him a bit of leeway because the apocalypse makes people do strange things and his sins such as they were, were minor in comparison to others.

The brief moments of political resentment & assessing of blame to Americans, in particular, felt real but ultimately futile. With all the politicians effectively dead or neutered and the world's interconnectedness broken up in such a way that it really didn't matter anymore, I appreciated the recognition of how people would act but also was glad that the story didn't dwell because the survivors really had more important things to deal with and honestly, enough time, energy and breath had been used on and by all those folks before The Fall.

I very much enjoyed the parts that showed how people felt about the loss of life as it had been from having television, internet and social media access to what it's like to face the apocalypse without your family or even in your home country. The feeling of being unmoored and untethered was shown well as was the decision to either make a go of the life you have as it is or opt out. There was no judgment either way and handled well, I think. I was glad to highlight some very well written passages I'd like to remember and look up again and that's always welcome.

A bit like Station Eleven with the quiet literary vibe, but also with elements of The Stand with some characters bringing in their brand of mysticism and that whole rebuilding and factions thing and a sprinkling of World War Z with the telling as a first-hand historical account. It comes together well but I do think the book blurb needs a rework. I'd definitely read another by Jameson.

Thanks to the publisher for the Early Review Copy.

Summary: Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.
Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?

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