Book Title: The Last One
Author: Alexandra Oliva
Amazon Link: Click here
Star Rating: Great book! Recommended.
Disclaimer: I received this free book from NetGalley in exchange for an un-biased review.
Reality meets Reality TV and it’s not pretty. I’ve never watched shows like Survivor, whose scenario this book is based on, but it certainly makes for riveting reading. Especially, when that show is taking place against the backdrop of a national disaster. I love “speculative fiction”, which is how I’d classify this book, and this is a good one. Here is the Amazon blurb…
Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s suspenseful, fast-paced debut novel.
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.
As you can imagine, it is very difficult to determine whether or not the world that Zoo is experiencing is all part of some god-awful Reality Competition or is in fact, the beginning of a disaster that is altering life as we know it. The book does a very good job of making a case for both. You have this terrible feeling that things really are as bad as they seem, but like the main character you wish with all your heart it just isn’t so.
I particularly like the way the main character was handled. She is a competent, bright, compassionate person. However, her experiences tests her both physically and mentally. You can’t help but pity her and hope she can find a way out of this nightmare. I also have to say, bravo to the author for not reveling in the kind of violence (particularly against women) that books of this genre tend to gravitate towards. Not that Zoo wasn’t in danger from others, but the dangers she faced were more than enough to move the story forward without becoming gratuitous.
The only problem I had with the book was in the beginning. The book has split points of view. One is Zoo’s which is very straightforward although it is an unreliable narrator since she is clouded by her own increasing confusion. The second is the point of view of someone watching the show (I will call it the Producer’s viewpoint). The Producer has nicknames for each person on the show, but Zoo calls each person by their actual name. It was very difficult at first to make the switch between viewpoint chapters, as well as to initially associate each character’s real name and their nicknames. Once you get the hang of it, it’s ok and I have to admit that it does do well to reinforce the sense of un-reality.
Reality TV, what a misnomer. Nothing about her life in association with that show had anything to do with reality. Product placement, fake scenery, manipulation of the contestant’s emotions are exactly what lead to Zoo’s confusion. However, I liked seeing the contestants working together more than viewers at home were allowed to see. I think that’s because I really do dislike the selfish attitude you see on Reality TV every day. It’s nice to think that people can be nicer than that. Television requires conflict, more selfishness, more fights. To what end? Isn’t life bad enough as it is sometimes? Don’t we have enough to fight about without fighting one another? A frequent refrain on Reality TV is the old “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to win.” Until the poop really does hit the fan. I can imagine at that point the one who can retain their humanity in the face of disaster is the one who wins it all in the end.
Spotify Song for this book: The Only Thing – Sufjan Stevens