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)
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.
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.
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.
Say something about yourself!
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.
The female narrator was very distracting. She always sounded like she was about to cry. The constant quiver in her voice caused me to stop paying attention. The idea for the plot was great, but I didn't root for the protagonist at all. She was like white noise. There were so many times where it seemed the storyline seemed so obvious and yet the main character just kept ignoring the clues for what seemed like no good reason. Plus, there seemed to be this issue with not saying her name, but again, the writer seemed to force the fact that we weren't supposed to know the protagonist's name and kept finding awkward ways to cause people to refer to her as "that woman," or "the blond." It just didn't seem genuine. The story also just kept dragging.
I wanted to like and root for Zoo. However, I didn't. She seemed to blend into the background...like scenery. There was nothing intriguing or special about her. I would have also like to actually see a plot that didn't feel as forced and unbelievable. I mean, a bus full of dead children were "props." Come on!
Mike Chamberlain did fine, but the narrator from the Gone Girl book was so much better.
Zoo! Unfortunately, she was the least interesting character even though she was the protagonist.
Unfortunately, I would not recommend this book.
I had expectations going into this book but this book blew them out of the water. I eagerly await the next chapter to this first book. If you are on the fence about this book, go for it! No spoilers here but it is a very enjoyable listen and keeps your attention.
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