“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.”
My Thoughts: The Last One is a simple story. There is a survival-based reality show that touts itself as pushing its contestants to the very edge of their limitations and perhaps even beyond. There are twelve contestants who are completed isolated from society with no means of communication and no outside contact other than that provided by the camera crews. The story follows Zoo as she pushes herself to the finale. She is utterly alone since her cameraman failed to show up one day, but her determination never wavers even though she has lost enthusiasm for the game given the extreme nature of the challenges she faces. All she wants to do is reach her home and her husband and claim her prize. Little does she understand that those challenges are not fake, and the chaos she sees on the “sets” are real.
The Last One is not just about media manipulation of reality; it is also about the combined frailty and strength of the human psyche. It is about the skewed perception of reality as we project what we want to see on what is actually there. It is as much an action story as it is a psychological one. As Zoo continues to ignore the clues presented to her, one wonders if she will ever realize the truth. The ease with which she is able to recognize the producers’ “tricks” is disconcerting and makes you question her sanity. At the same time, you cannot help but admire her resilience when her perceived reality is the only thing that allows her to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
There are few answers within The Last One, and that is okay. The story is not about what happened to the world but how one person continues in spite of what happened. Neither is the story all doom-and-gloom. This is not a post-apocalyptic world with few survivors like other end-of-world stories. There are survivors and the world is not completely over. There is unwavering hope and an ability to find beauty in every situation. It is the human story in its most basic form.
The Last One is a chilling novel about our collective obsession with reality TV and the psychological games such shows employ. Switching back and forth between Zoo’s experiences and what the behind-the-scenes of the show itself, readers get a clear picture of how little attention they pay to a contestant’s state of mind in these extreme, survival-type shows. At the same time, it is very much a survival story that whittles what it means to live and to love down to its very essence. The pacing of the story as well as the compelling nature of Zoo’s plight makes this a fast read and a great summer page-turner.