Tuesday, 2 February 2021

 

Book review: Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift


Oh hello. 2020 was a strange one wasn't it? I lost my reading and blogging mojo amongst this tumultuous time, but after a refreshing break from everything I feel energised and motivated to dive back into this wonderful world. After all, it's brought me so much joy in the last 10+ years that this little happy corner of the Internet is exactly what I need as we go into another strange year. Today I'm thrilled to bring you a review of one of the most anticipated books of 2021 – Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift – and rightfully so, what a corker of a read. 

Imagine a deadly virus has suddenly arrived. With no known cure, it's rapidly killing the world's population and making the global economy crumble. A year ago this may have sound like far-fetched sci-fi, but today... not so much. And that is what makes this eerily realistic novel, which was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, so chilling. 

It's the year 2023 and people are rapidly dying from 6DM, a virus nicknamed after its effects because once you get it you have 'six days maximum' to live. It's arrived out of the blue, the world is unprepared, and everyone dies in the matter of a months. Except for our protagonist. She's not a survival expert, in fact she is probably one of the least equipped people to deal with a global pandemic and the end of civilisation, yet some sort of strange immunity prevents her from getting ill, even when her partner does and dies in their bed. 

The majority of the book has our protagonist exploring this strange new world post-pandemic; trying to reach family members (it's too late), scavenging for food that hasn't rotten or been eaten by rats (surprisingly easy), and eventually trying create some sort of stable, self-sufficient life for herself. This journey is interspersed with flashbacks and memories to the days, weeks, and months leading up to this global devastation. The rapid way in which the world has crumbled under such extraordinary circumstances is quite frankly terrifying. 

What makes this book even more realistic is how author Bethany Swift has woven in some of our current experiences. While Last One at the Party was written before COVID, it has been slightly edited since to put the characters in the context of having already lived through a pandemic. This means that they were familiar wearing masks, for example, and quickly picked that habit back up when 6DM arrived, and there are other such parallels with our current reality. This makes the 6DM story not very far-fetched at all. And as I was travelling on a Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel last year, I read that the UK prime minister blew up the tunnel to keep the UK safe from 6DM... I realised that we were kind of living the story in the book, if things had turned out even worse than they have. 

But I digress. This is not only a heightened COVID story that will make your skin crawl when you think about what our world could be in just a few years time, it's also a fascinating exploration of the human survival instinct. Our protagonist is not prepared for the situation she finds herself in at all and makes some stupid decisions (like trying to bury a body when the ground is frozen). And yet, because she has no other choice but to keep going, she manages to continue on – and survive. That's actually a pretty hopeful thing to read about. After all, if any of us would be put in a similar situation (hopefully not) we'd probably be equally clueless. So it's reassuring to know that we as humans are able to adapt and survive if we have to. 

Bethany Clift's wonderfully gripping and fast-paced storytelling also made this a most excellent read. I read it in one day because the storyline was so compelling and I *had* to know what happened next, even if our protagonist wasn't a particularly likeable character. I simultaneously didn't care about her as a person and yet desperately needed to know how she would end up, if that makes sense. 

Last One at the Party is a great read, there's no doubt about them. The pages hum with excitement, each more intriguing than the one before. It's easy to be absorbed completely by the captivating world build by the author, if only to imagine that things could be far worse than they currently are, and be left hopeful by an ending that teases opportunities for further explorations. 



Last One at the Party
 by Bethany Clift is published by Hodder and Stoughton on 4 February 2021 and you pre-order your copy now from Foyles or your preferred retailer.



Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me by the publisher, but this has not impacted this honest review. 


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