“She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
When Zoo agrees to take part in a new reality TV show, In The Dark, she knows that she will be tested to the limits of her endurance. Beating eleven competitors in a series of survival tasks deep in the forest will be the ultimate challenge before she returns home to start a family.
A GAME WITH NO END
As the contestants are overcome by hunger, injury and psychological breakdown, the mind games to which Zoo is subjected grow dark beyond belief. This isn’t what she signed up for: the deserted towns and gruesome props. Is this a game with no end? alone and disoriented, Zoo must summon all her survival skills – and learn new ones as she goes . . .”
Oh flipping heck! I absolutely loved this book. It’s was a bit of a change for me. Yes, it’s described as a crime thriller but it’s so much more than that. I would describe this book as multi-genre rather than a crime thriller. Crime thriller, horror, YA, dystopian, romance, survival….so many genres covered in one unsettling but completely mesmirising book. Weeks later and I’m still thinking on the themes in this novel. It did a very good job of scaring the you know what out of me too, bravo Alexandra Oliva.
Zoo wants a monumental challenge before settling down with her husband and starting a family. Well, that’s what she’s telling people anyway! So when the opportunity to appear on a new reality show arises, Zoo jumps at the chance. The show is a massive undertaking. Twelve contestants are thrown together in the wilderness with the barest of survival skills. The aim, to be the last one standing, to survive in the wilderness the longest. For those who can’t cope there is a key phrase which when uttered makes a producer appear and whisk them away to civilisation. But what if something catastrophic were to happen after filming starts. Something that changes life, as Zoo knows it, for ever…
I adored Zoo. Her resilience, her attitude, virtually everything about this character really appealed to me. The only thing I found slightly frustrating was Zoo’s refusal to accept the obvious, but then why should she? She was only seeing a fraction of the picture I was!
I sat from start to finish on the very edge of my seat. I had a feeling of impending doom which only worsened the further I progressed through the pages. I was expecting something in particular to happen, but it didn’t. Oh my gosh, Oliva knows how to keep you teetering on the edge. I wasn’t at all disappointed that I couldn’t work out what was going to happen. As a crime fan I automatically try and work out how the story will end so it’s always good to be proved completely wrong.
I loved the way the media are portrayed in this novel. They manipulated everything the viewer saw and heard. They made their favourites look great whilst leaving certain characters looking shameful and totally egocentric. The complete control these nameless characters had over the other characters was powerful stuff and made me question exactly how much we see in these ‘reality’ shows is actually true and how much is manipulated content.
The ending of this novel broke my heart. Was I completely satisfied by the conclusion? Well, no. Probably not but that just left me wanting more. We all love a happy ending but sometimes no matter how much you want it, you aren’t going to get it. By the way, Zoo’s real name isn’t Zoo. The author has labelled each character with a mangled version of their job description. Zoo works in an animal park with school groups, not necessarily a zoo. Other characters are called Rancher, Waitress, Air Force…
The chapters alternate between the past and the present. The past being the start of filming when all of the contestants were working together and learning their new survival skills. The present chapters feature only Zoo and her fight to survive to the end. She has no idea how much time has passed, she has no idea where she is. All she knows is that no matter what is thrown at her, no matter how many mangled props she comes across, she must fight to the end. No matter how bad her nightmares become.
Would I recommend this book? Daft question really. I loved this book and can see it featuring on my top books of 2017 list. It made me nervous, it confronted my worst fears, it was everything I didn’t expect it to be! So very well written. Zoo will stay with me for a long, long time to come. What an experience!
Five out of five stars.
I chose to read and review an eARC of The Last One. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 29th December 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |
Alexandra Oliva grew up in a small town deep in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. A graduate of Yale University, she also earned an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University and undertook intensive wilderness survival training while researching The Last One. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their brindled pup, Codex. The Last One is her first novel.
Alexandra can be easily reached via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her website.