Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: July 12th, 2016
Synopsis: 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 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 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 either be her triumph or her undoing.
I have to be upfront and admit I don’t generally care for survival reality tv shows. I think that for the most part they tend to bring out the worst in people. Still, the premise of The Last One intrigued me, but alas, it just wasn’t for me. The biggest problem I ran into was I couldn’t connect to any of the characters including the main one, Zoo (yes that’s a nickname). The story is laid out between what is happening in real time, after the virus(?) has hit, to chapters that flashback to the start of the production where you get all the background information on the show In the Dark, and the contestants. The producers assign the contestants nicknames based on their occupations: Zoo, Rancher, Tracker, Waitress, Banker, etc. There’s even one who’s a self-proclaimed exorcist, who provides for some interesting moments. In a way the contestants are treated as things, rather than people which left me even more disconnected from them. And, there were some occasions where the characters address each other by their real names which confused me to no end. So, back to Zoo, because it’s her journey that is the main focus of the book. She’s described as being likeable and charismatic enough that from the beginning of the production she’s chosen by the show’s producers as a “fan favorite “, but for me, these traits didn’t really come across. I thought she seemed nice enough, but she’s completely self-obsessed and her short-sightedness winds up becoming a major part of the plot. I kept hoping for another character’s viewpoint which could have perhaps made Zoo a little more interesting. The worldbuilding is okay, but there’s nothing that really stands out from the multitude of other end-of-the-world novels that are out there. Despite these issues I had, I kept reading because even though the rational side of me knew something very bad had happened in the outside world, there was a part of me that kept wondering if this really could be part of the show. Even though The Last One wasn’t my cup of tea, I do understand what the author was trying to accomplish here. It’s an interesting social commentary and psychological exploration on how reality tv plays mind games with its viewers even when there’s not a global pandemic going on. I think fans of reality tv series like Survivor and Naked and Afraid will enjoy this and get much more out of it than I did.