Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Books I've Loved: The Last One

I won this book in a Twitter competition and I knew nothing about it until it arrived.  So it was a pleasant surprise when I started reading and was instantly sucked into the book's world.

I don't watch a lot of reality TV, but I think you would have to have lived a long way from civilization not to know how this kind of show works, or not to have seen at least a few episodes of Survivor or another similar program.

From the very first page you know something is going to go horribly wrong and the contestants in this particular show are going to have to survive far more than challenges and depravation.  And that's what's so delightful about the book.

There are a number of characters introduced, but for the most part they aren't named.  Contestants are given nicknames by the producers based on how they perceive the people as characters in the show.  For the most part, these are the names used and they give us a quick snapshot of who these characters are which allows us to slide into their world easily.

Other sections of the book are narrated by one of the contestants (the one the producers call Zoo because she works with animals in her real life).  Through her first person narration, we see the other contestants as real people, not single word stereotypes, although mostly in memory because by the time we join Zoo, she's pretty far into a solo challenge.  Or so she thinks…

As things become more challenging and frightening, Zoo believes she's still in the game and the challenges are just getting tougher.  She sees cameras everywhere, despite the fact the camera-men and drones were so present in the early part of the show, and now they are invisible.  Her slow realization that maybe not everything is part of the game is a joy to read.

The only slightly confusing thing in the book is that Zoo calls the contestants by their real names and it sometimes takes a second or two to figure out which of the producers' nicknames these actual names might apply to.  But it isn't that hard to do…

Overall, I devoured this book in only a couple of days and have been recommending it.  The premise is fascinating, and the author tackles the subject deftly.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.

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.

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 all 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 be either her triumph or her undoing.

Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.


  1. Wow, this sounds really cool. I'm going to have to read this one.

  2. It sounds awesome. Might have to check this one out.

  3. Interesting juxtaposition, not only commenting on the nature of reality shows, but what it would be like to be left out of the loop if something massive happens in the real world...The fourth season of the American version of Survivor began filming a few months after 9/11, and the third less than a month before it happened. Imagine what would have happened if schedules had been different...