Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson
Jon Keller never though he’d be at a conference in a hotel in Switzerland when the world ended, but that’s exactly how it happens. One moment, he’s having a hotel breakfast, the next there’s a woman screaming at her phone, devastated to learn that there’s been a nuclear attack in Washington.
Before long, more news rolls in. Bombs have detonated across the globe. Scotland is lost. The president is dead.
Chaos erupts. Some people flee from the hotel, while others are frozen in fear and can’t comprehend the idea of leaving. Luckily for us, Jon is one of the people who chooses to stay, dedicating his time to keeping a record of the events that unfold at L’Hotel Sixieme.
Things spiral out of control quickly. The water supply is tainted, so Jon and two of the hotel staff members head up to the roof to see if they can figure out the problem and are devastated to discover the body of a little girl in one of the water towers.
One of the other survivors is a murderer, and Jon is determined to find the killer.
The Last has one of the most intriguing taglines I’ve ever encountered, but unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I’m going to resist giving too much away because I’m very aware that it’s not published until the 31st, but I’m thinking of revisiting the story and writing a more in-depth review next month because I have a lot of feelings about this book.
The first half of the novel is gripping because it plays with your head. Surrounded by strangers and certain that one of them is a killer, Jon’s mind plays tricks on him, twisting him into an unreliable narrator and hooking you instantly. This is helped by the first few entries in Jon’s journal being short and snappy, causing fifty pages to fly past in the blink of an eye.
I did find my mind wandering towards the end of the book. As the setting changes so does the focus of the novel, shifting from a small group hellbent on survival to the fate of the world, which I’ve seen done so many times that I wasn’t all that interested. If I’d been craving action and the introduction of real danger, it would have been perfect, but I was charmed by the well-crafted and realistic cast in the hotel (who get extra points for being multicultural, featuring characters from across the globe, of various ages and sexualities).
One of the aspects that I appreciated the most was the characters trying to charge their phones and get internet after the power had already begun running out. That’s concern is bound to plague people if the world does end, and it’s realistic to feature it rather than implying that the entire population could adjust to the loss of technology instantly.
However, The Last is at risk of becoming a zeitgeist. There are thinly veiled insinuations that the nuclear war is the fault of an unspecified president (clearly intended to be President Trump), while there’s also a brief exploration of the #MeToo movement. It’ll be interesting to revisit the novel in a few years and see whether the concerns remain relevant, because I can imagine that the yearning for social media updates will become more pertinent as time passes.
I hadn’t heard of Hanna Jameson until this novel was announced, but I’m planning on going back and reading some of her previous releases, as I really enjoyed her writing style (particularly the fact that she made me care about Jon despite him being such an unlikable character!).
Before I go, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Viking for sending me an advanced copy of this book. It’s highly anticipated, so I’m very grateful that I could count myself as one of the lucky readers who got to check it out early. The Last is released on January 31st, so if you’re interested you should definitely get yourself a copy.