An American history professor is in a hotel in Switzerland for a conference, along with his colleagues and a melting pot of holidaying families, travellers, and staff, when the bombs begin to fall. As the hotel patrons and staff begin to panic, many flee but a handful remain. These lost souls attempt to band together as the clouds in the sky turn orange and the rain turns radioactive. Cut off from the world as the internet fails and power supply is cut, they begin to worry about the coming winter.
As the world slowly reacts, Jon the professor begins to collect the stories of the survivors and write them down. He is compelled to do this, as one last meaningful act. During his exploration of the largely empty hotel, he uncovers the unlikely backstories of his fellow survivors and finds the body of a child floating in the water tanks on the roof. A smaller, more intimate story then unfolds which shows how the banalities of life continue even as the world is ending. People still fall in love and fall apart, criminal acts still occur but are now handled with frontier justice, teeth still become infected and personalities still clash over political leanings – long after all the politicians are dead.
In terms of post apocalyptic novels, this one definitely leans more Station Eleven than The Stand. It’s a quieter, more contemplative look at life after the end, which was well structured and paced. The backstories of the hotel guests provided interesting anecdots and intrigue, which provided a welcome break from a world devastated by nuclear fallout. I particularly enjoyed the hopeful tone on which The Last ends. Sometimes, novels like this just leave you wrecked and devastated (I’m looking at you, On The Beach….), but The Last left me with a kernal of optimism.
My only critique is how difficult I felt it was to differentiate between the interchangeble male characters, which meant that the resolution of the murder mystery story within The Last was a bit confusing for me.
Overall: 4 stolen handguns out of 5.