The Last One
by Alexandra Oliva
Cover Artist: George Peters / Getty Images
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ballantine Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101966839
Date: 15 August 2017 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Reality TV becomes more real for one cast member. A new survival game is filming with some typical casting. Cast members will perform challenges as teams and individuals. The game continues until all but one participant has quit. The winner takes home a million dollars. A sickness will throw everything in flux.
The main action follows Zoo as well as brief interludes with the director, other contestants, and online commentary. The early activity describes the first-team competitions. The other competitors have a range of backgrounds and skills. Tracker will be the toughest to overcome as he has the most field knowledge. There are others such as Rancher and Air Force who also have useful knowledge. Others are less capable like waitress and Cheerleader Boy.
Things seem to go to a new level when the action switches to an individual competition and zoo gets sick. She knows it can't be too bad as the show would pull her out if they thought she was at risk. But the challenges are way different than she expects.
Zoo knows she is behind the other remaining competitors. The game field seems to have expanded beyond what was originally planned, but the show has deep pockets. The arrival of a new cameraman seems to indicate another shift. But Zoo won't give up even as the competition gets tougher and the challenges more strange.
This is a stand-alone novel. It helps if readers are familiar with the premise of most reality TV shows. The personality types are what you'd expect to see when a cast is set. Although, I would have expected to see a tilt towards more wilderness survival skills. At about 150 pages this is a quick hitter. The action is kept tight even though the action occurs over several weeks. I commend the author for not providing too much detail and trying to stretch the story. I think this is a good and entertaining story which people will enjoy.
When Zoo is the POV the story it is told from the first person perspective. The perspective switches to the third person for other characters. The online commentary takes the form of a transcript which provides the viewers' perspectives. The switching makes some sense and doesn't get confusing. Some of the flashback scenes, on the other hand, do create a little confusion as to when something happened and if some action will only be mentioned in passing or expanded upon in a future scene.
The next bit contains some spoilers.
The question of whether the action is real or fake is answered rather quickly for readers. The main character does not see what is happening. This disconnect makes readers wonder when she will see what is happening. The sickness, death, destruction, and collapse make for an interesting setting. Author Oliva did a nice job keeping a few questions in the air until she was ready to reveal them.