What is the real world if it’s not the world one exists in?
She wanted an adventure. One last hurrah before settling down into married life. But what happens when the reality show you’re in suddenly becomes just that, reality.
The Last One is what happens when you cross Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic dystopia, The Road, with I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here. The result is a very clever, edge-of-your-seat, red herring bonanza, in which a contestant on In the Dark, the latest survival reality show, unknowingly finds herself in the midst of post-apocalyptic America, fighting for survival, all the while still believing it’s all part of an incredibly elaborate TV show.
The idea is ingenious, and Alexandra Oliva has clearly had great fun thinking up just how far she can take it, and for the most part, she succeeds. Intertwining the reality of pandemic-hit America, with the pseudo reality of In The Dark, makes for an interesting contrast, particularly when it comes to the ways the contestant repeatedly convinces herself it’s all fake.
That said, these ways do become ever so slightly ridiculous to believe as the book goes on, largely because once the initial novelty has worn off, there is very little plot development, and what there is, happens extremely slowly. In fact, it doesn’t take long for you to begin to wonder why she hasn’t figured it all out yet.
Whilst for the most part you can suspend disbelief and tell yourself it’s just a story, when the story itself is contrasting reality with the deceptions of reality television, the reality needs to be realistic. There are just one too many times in which Oliva pushes that to it’s limits for this to be the case, and, honestly, the biggest twist of all goes well beyond the realms of reality, and is, in actual fact, more akin to something you would see on reality television.
That all said, it is still an enjoyable read, and an interesting idea, with a good balance of comic relief to offset the slightly more disturbing moments. I’ve heard it compared with Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, but, apocalypse aside, the two have very little in common, and I’d sooner describe it as Survivor meets The Walking Dead.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Featured image by Aaron Limonick