About The Book
Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead
Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm
Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.
Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.
Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.
As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?
Jon Keller is at a conference in Switzerland enjoying breakfast at the hotel he is staying at when he receives a push notification to his phone which says, “Breaking: Nuclear attack on Washington in progress. Story developing.” Then another message; “200,000 fatalities”, and another; “the President and staff are dead”. Soon after London is obliterated, followed by Berlin and other cities across the Western world. Stunned, Jon remains at the hotel whilst others flee, leaving behind a rag tag bunch of guests and staff who are waiting for, salvation? Death? Something anyway. But then, they find a body. Is there a murderer amongst them? If so, who?
I absolutely flipping loved this book. It is terrifying because it feels so very real. The actions and behaviour of an American President has led to an unprecedented catastrophe from an unknown assailant and in a moment the world is changed forever. The actions of those in power has caused life to be irrevocably altered for the twenty or so guests left at the hotel. Jon, an American history professor documents the aftermath of the attacks in the form of a diary to ensure that the change to the social and political landscape is available for future historians.
It is through this diary that we see what happens to society when all that we know is decimated. Cliques form, a leader emerges, alliances are created and difficult decisions must be made. Food is scarce as is electricity and, most horrifying of all, there’s no internet. This in particular is such an interesting thing to explore – what does a world do when they are unable to find the answer to something by Googling? More importantly, how do you find out if your loved ones are still alive when you are in a remote hotel in Switzerland and they are on the west coast of America? The thoughts of what has happened to Jon’s wife, Nadia and their children torment him, causing him to lose himself in fantasies of them surviving and escaping or dark thoughts of them dying in a blast, because who knows if the west coast even exists anymore? The last that they heard Scotland was gone so why not America too?
It is the pressure cooker of the hotel that I loved most of all and Hanna Jameson writes this stuff so well. It builds and builds and I never knew quite who to trust. When a body is found in one of the water tanks the whole thing is turned on its head. Suddenly everybody is suspicious and nobody feels safe and the few lone women in the hotel feel particularly vulnerable. It is a tense read and at times horrifying and upsetting – and I don’t mean in a gruesome way, more that it all feels so authentic and it got firmly into my head.
I am a huge fan of dystopian novels so this ticked lots of boxes for me, especially as it concentrates so much on what happens in the immediate aftermath and the fear of what is outside the grounds of the hotel. I find this sort of thing so interesting and love reading about the power plays and the day to day life in a situation like this. It is the normality in the most abnormal of situations that I find intriguing and even though there is a dead body and food is scarce people still get sick and bored. And that is when things get interesting.
If clever dystopian fiction with a lot of humanity and heart is your thing then The Last by Hanna Jameson could be for you. It is only January but this could be one of my books of the year.