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.
©2016 Alexandra Oliva (P)2016 Random House Audio
"The Last One seamlessly melds two of our contemporary obsessions - the threat of global catastrophe and the staged drama of reality TV - into a fiercely imagined tale of the human psyche under stress. This is an uncompromising, thought-provoking debut." (Justin Cronin)
"Haunting, moving, and remarkable, Alexandra Oliva's debut novel is clever in its concept and gripping in its delivery. This propulsive book is for everyone who ever thought reality television signaled the end of the world." (Karen Joy Fowler)
"Taut, tense, and at times almost unbearably real, The Last One is both a compelling read and a terrifyingly believable evocation of survival against the odds." (Ruth Ware)
Understandably this book has some great reviews. It's a different concept, reality TV meets real human horror. Plus the writing is excellent. Despite these qualities the story line couldn't hold it together for me. The character the reader follows is the least interesting of the characters and quickly becomes sappy and annoyingly self-absorbed. There could have been more development of discussion points - the "reality" to reality TV, race, gender, religion, human coping, etc, etc., but they are either treated with bias so there isn't room for discussion or not given enough attention to make an impact. Also, the injections of social media reactions were neither humorous or productive. Alas, it just wasn't for me.
When I like something I'll let you know. If I don't, I'll let you know that too!
I found The Last One to be a very interesting read. It has been a while since I devoured a book of this size in four days.
This is the story of a woman struggling to compete and survive despite being the best equipped for what lays ahead. I enjoyed reading Zoo's journey, but I have to say I felt that her reason for participating in this television reality contest and other parts of her backstory were glossed over. Maybe I just needed to know more about her past to really know what this contest meant to her.
I also had a hard time believing some of the geography mentioned in the book and how Zoo kept to the forests on her journey home. These are minor quibbles but they took me out of the story as I tried to get a handle on where we were. The story moves along at a very good (and in some cases a very fast) pace even though there are a lot of pages devoted to characters that really just don't matter. There are a couple of other points in the story that, in my estimation, defy logic. However, expanding on those here would give up some spoilers which I expect would ruin your overall enjoyment of The Last One. So, curl up near the air conditioner or slap on some sun screen and take the hike of a lifetime with Zoo!
For those who make a comparison between this book and Station Eleven, I believe this is a tighter story and one with I'd rather read again.
I docked one star from the audio performance because there were times I thought the male narrator was inadequate. I can't really put my finger on why I didn't care for Mr. Chamberlain, but I know that I found his cadence was often annoying or too much in contrast with Ms. Zanzarella.
There were so many interesting directions this could have gone and it just didn't take any of them. Seemed more like a senior creative writing paper commentary on reality shows. Just kept going. No sympathy for the main character. Ending seemed like she just got tired of writing---I'm sure it was an artistic way to end it, but not very satisfying.
The reality show premise with a pandemic happening during filming.
Yes. Good narrators.
Make myself finish the story, though the heroine was overly dramatic and almost hysterical and in denial about what she saw. Her refusal to accept reality was frustrating to me, because it made the book overly long.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks.
I wasn't sure if I was supposed to like the main character, Zoo, or dislike her. In the end I found her grating on my nerves because she was so callous and unfeeling to other people. I also thought her motivation for going on the show was ok at the outset, but as the story deepened it wasn't enough to carry me through. There had to be something more to what drove her, murder, accidental death, something else.
Surprisingly, I found the reality show sections of the book incredibly boring. I was much more interested in Zoo's story. I also felt the reality show sections were handled poorly. They would have been much better had there been some development and odd occurrences along their journey instead of just getting sick at the very end.
The audio performances were good, well acted.
YES! I've already listened 3 times during my daily work commute.
Descriptive characters and scenes, engaging action, reflective internal thoughts.
Overall, it took me a while to get into their voices.
Mike sounded stiff and bored, which detracted from the story.
Nicol reflected Zoo's agony & weariness which added a dimension to the story.
The watching of Zoo's revelation about what was happening around her and how she tried to reconcile it with past and present events.
It's profoundly ironic that Alexandra Oliva's first novel is entitled "The Last One", because it's evident to me that this will NOT be her last one :)
Although I'm not thrilled about the narrators, Ali's wonderfully engaging and descriptive story reached in, grabbed me and invited me along on "Zoo's" adventure. So entertained was I, that when I reached the end, I started listening again from the beginning...twice! After savoring a total of three times now, I eagerly await her next novel.
After reading glowing accolades from a few of my favorite authors (Ruth Ware, Justin Cronin), I thought this was a sure thing. I'm about 2 hours from the end and I'm bored out of my mind. The reviews from regular readers are more accurate. The concept is promising, but the execution is just not good. The main character is not likable, though we're told repeatedly that she is. The supporting characters are so cliche it's mind boggling. The story has gone nowhere. Zzzzzzzz snooze fest.
This novel has such a cool premise and such great promise -- I had high hopes for liking it and dove right in. Yet just couldn't stick with it. Instead of telling the story in chronological order, it hops around all choppy, with various flashbacks. And then there's the not-so-subtle "anti-religion" agenda woven through it. It's just not gripping enough at the beginning to hold my interest - it moves too slow, with not enough info to give readers/listeners any insight as to what's going on. Fans of doomer fiction or sci-fi may be able to finish it, but as for me, there are other books on my list. I'm returning for my credit. Bummer.
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