Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: The Last One – Alexandra Oliva


The Last One – Alexandra Oliva



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 human-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.




Review: Oh, mixed feelings. I really like half this book and really don’t like the other half.

The narrator—a woman identified as Zoo—wants to have a final adventure before settling down and starting a family. She decides to become a contestant on a high-budget reality show. For an unspecified length of time, Zoo must survive alone in the wilderness and face whatever challenges the show producers throw at her.


“The first one on the production team to die will be the editor.” – The Last One



What Zoo doesn’t know is that while she’s in the wilderness, a plague sweeps through the eastern US and kills most of the population. When the show’s producers and cameramen suddenly stop coming to work, Zoo isn’t sure what to think. She’s completely alone in the woods. Is this part of the show, or did something bad happen? She doesn’t know how to react. If she does the wrong thing, she could lose her chance at winning the prize money.

This story is told on two timelines. The past timeline shows Zoo’s first few days in the woods—right before everything goes wrong. The present timeline shows Zoo wandering through a post-apocalyptic landscape, searching for reassurance that all the devastation is actually part of a TV program.

The Last One definitely made me think. It raises a lot of intriguing questions about reality. We live in a world of big-budget TV shows, holograms, Photoshop, and ultra-realistic special effects. Sometimes the line between real and fake can be blurry. As our technology advances, “real” and “not real” may get even more perplexing. Zoo’s confusion about the plague is completely believable. Something terrifyingly real is happening in a reality-show world where nothing is real. It messes with Zoo’s mind.

I love that this book attempts to show reality TV from the point-of-view of a contestant and a viewer. The show’s editors manipulate Zoo’s “reality” to make it entertaining for the TV audience. Zoo and the viewers are experiencing the same manufactured events in different ways. The reader gets to see those differences.


“They'll wait until I'm asleep—or nearly asleep—to strike. That's how they do it; they blur the line between reality and nightmare. They give me bad dreams, and then they make them come true.” – The Last One



I enjoyed the chapters that are told from Zoo’s point-of-view, but I got bored with the chapters that describe the show. Even though I watch a lot of reality TV, the show in this novel didn’t interest me at all. I wasn’t invested in it and didn’t completely understand the rules. Imagine you’re listening to your coworker tell you (in great detail) about a TV show you’ve never seen and don’t care about. That’s what those chapters feel like. I was tempted to skim them to get back to Zoo.

The pacing is also slightly slow. This is another post-apocalyptic novel where the character spends the majority of the book wandering around. Zoo meets some unusual people, but those meetings are interspersed with long periods of wandering.


“The brain is a terrifying and wondrous organ, and all it wants is to survive.” – The Last One



Like I said, I enjoyed half this book. It’s interesting to watch Zoo come to terms with what has happened to the world. She faces some unique problems that aren’t usually seen in post-apocalyptic literature. The author is a good writer and has fascinating ideas. I just never felt fully invested in the story because I didn’t care about the reality show.



TL;DR: What is reality? This novel does a brilliant job of exploring that question, but I got bored fairly often.








27 comments:

  1. I had similar feelings about this book. I found it to be much too slow and I got insanely bored with the not-Zoo scenes. I had super high expectations because I LOVE Survivor. I still enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would.

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    1. I love Survivor, too. I expected this book to be more Survivor-like, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t interested in the show in the book.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. Well at least you finished it and liked some of it. I had to dnf this one. I didn’t care for it at all. Great review!

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  3. Meh. I thought it had potential. Maybe your next read will be better.

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  4. Darn, it sounds like I might find it too slow as well. I really like this horrible game show kind of thing. I'll still look at it at some point but it'll go down my list of priorities!

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  5. I really liked this book! I didn't find it slow, but then again I do like to watch reality shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race.

    To me this was a mash-up of Survivor & The Walking Dead :) I do remember preferring the chapters about Zoo better, and it ends with a cliffhanger, so maybe we are kind of in agreement about this one. Thanks!

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    1. I think I’m tired of post-apocalyptic road trip books. I get frustrated when characters just wander around for 200 pages.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. Not sure whether to try this one or not. I don't watch reality TV shows so think I would have even less chance of relating to those chapters although Zoo's predicament sounds very interesting.

    Stephanie Jane @ Literary Flits

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    1. Zoo’s chapters are awesome. The reality show chapters were just “meh” for me.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. The premise is so interesting, and I usually enjoy books with a reality TV angle. Too bad the show descriptions were meh.

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    1. If you like reality TV, you might like this one. I just didn’t understand and didn’t care about the show in the book.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. This sounds like a bad execution of a great premise. This is on my TBR because I usually enjoy lots of of reality shows. Zoo's story sounds promising though!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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  9. oh man, I remember that book when it first came out, sounded kind of exciting but eh.. sorry you didn't like half of it, I can see why, probably why I didn't jump at the chance of reading it.

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    1. I put it on my TBR list when it first came out. Then it stayed on my list for years because I’m such a slow reader. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. As a HUGE fan of both the show Survivor and dystopian novels, this sounds like and amazing book! It has been a while since I have read a post-apocalyptic book that thrilled me (it seems like the trend hit its peak a couple of years ago and started disappearing), but this premise seems so unique and existential. I am sorry to hear that you didn't like half of it, but I think I will give it a shot anyway!
    Tessa @ Crazy for YA

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  11. I really liked this one! It was a strange mash up, though.

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  12. I agree with Tori. It sounds like a great premise but it just ended up being badly executed. Such a shame. I want to read it but what I read from your review I think I'll let it pass. Such a shame.

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    1. If you really like reality TV, you might like it. I just didn’t care about the show in the book. I wanted to read about Zoo.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. Oh I am so sorry to see you didn't love this book as much as I did. I mean, it was a slow pace but I find myself enjoy all the little details in books lately. Great review, I think you covered everything that needed to be said about this book.

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  14. Ha, this legit. sounds like a lot of the shows we get in the UK though XD there's even one where people go on the run for several days and the object is not to get caught; on one episode some of the contestants asked a random old woman for a lift in the middle of nowhere because 'there are people chasing us' - and she was just like, 'OK,' and let them in! Like this happens a lot! Lol :)

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