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Dave Van Domelen
on March 19, 2012 :
Capsule: I enjoyed this book. The layered mysteries were revealed in nicely twisty fashion without seeming pointlessly arcane. The early chapters were a bit dry, and it wasn't clear to me that the viewpoint character was female until later (although, to be fair, Asha as a person rather than as a role only became important about that point in the book too), but it picked up well by the quarter point.
Now, I bring a rather odd perspective to reading Paul's novel, because I know something about his creative past that's not included in his "book jacket" entry. To wit, back in the 1990s, he wrote for the Legion of Net.Heroes on Usenet. The premise was that the "Looniverse" was a parodic superhero setting in which the inhabitants know they're living in stories...and not all of them are too fond of their writers. Paul's characters, in specific, hated him in particular and writers in general. And he gave them good reason, eh? Some parts of Last Man On Earth Club do read like what might have happened if he'd kept writing his Legion of Occult Heroes title...for a silly universe, some very serious stories resulted, especially from Paul and those he influenced.
So, while he's certainly grown and changed as a writer in the intervening decade and change, in many ways this felt like he was finishing off the stories left untold when he stopped writing about the tragic life of the Green Trenchcoat, last survivor of a dead Earth....
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on July 24, 2011 :
How would you like your apocalypse served? Zombie? Nuclear? Machine war? Genocide? Combustion into ash? Mass suicide induced by alien energy beings? Well, you get the all-in-one combo with this book.
The Last Man on Earth Club explores the experiences of six apocalypse survivors from six parallel Earths. It’s examined through the therapy sessions run by Dr. Asha Singh, where she treats the survivors recovering on the homeworld of the Interversal Union (IU). The IU is like a multiverse UN where it provides aid to all the parallel Earths, because apparently the end of the world is happening somewhere all the time. While it’s told from the doctor’s first person POV, it often reads like third-person as she often takes the role of a detached observer, and we learn of the patients’ experiences through their dialogue and progress in therapy.
It’s an unusual concept, but it works. The tone is brooding yet clinical, creating an effective contrast to the horrifying apocalypses described by the survivors. It’s not a fast-paced page turner, but it will hold your attention throughout all 170,000 words. The real nature of the apocalypses and the survivors’ experiences are revealed slowly, and each apocalypse experience is memorable with its own set of conflicts to grapple with.
The six survivors are well-developed characters with distinct personalities. Their interactions, conflict, and growth drive the narrative of the story. While they have severe problems and their quarrels can get over the top, they are sympathetic characters and they don’t come off as melodramatic. This is a character-driven story that really makes the connections between adversity, suffering, and healing.
I liked the parallels to contemporary international regimes. The Interversal Union’s resources are strained by the amount of apocalypse refugees that require their need. There’s an organization that parallels the International Criminal Court, and the characters are polarized in their attitudes towards justice, revenge, and prosecuting people for genocide. These real world parallels make the survivors’ ordeals even more compelling–resulting in an emotionally powerful novel that’s never short of ideas worth reflecting on.
My suspension of disbelief was stretched with one survivor’s world where half the population had superpowers. This world had a lot of calamities and bioengineered abominations that came out of some seemingly nonsensical experiments. There are some moments where this book sacrifices practicality for Rule of Cool (or more precisely, Rule of Nightmare Fuel), and it would have been nice if multiverse-travel was explained further. But these are minor criticisms of a very solid science fiction work.
The Last Man on Earth Club is highly recommended, especially for fans of dystopian and apocalyptic literature. If you like the first few chapters and want to learn more about the characters, then go for it, and it only gets better from there. It’s a dark, original, and intelligent science fiction book that continues to give me some food for thought, and also perhaps a little hope.
Note: a free review copy was provided by the author.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on July 06, 2011 :
I’m a fan of dystopia mainly, but I guess you could say as a result of that, I’m also a fan of post-apocalyptic stories and not just in books. One of my favourite games is Fallout, one of my favourite movies is 12 Monkeys, and one of my favourite books is The Road, all of which have a post-apocalyptic theme.
All of those stories, like many other post-apocalyptic ones, look at survival after the fact and that survival usually involves other people of that society being present. Where it’s the case of the last man standing, so to speak, it’s usually their struggle with being alone and adapting to their situation. I found it interesting to read a concept based on that last man standing to not only survive, but be taken away from their isolation, and yet still have to struggle with being alone and adapting to their situation.
The Last Man on Earth Club is one parts Rehab Genre Fiction, one parts apocalypse concepts that tantalise the imagination, and a whole lot more inbetween. As you would expect when it comes to a story that deals with a therapy group, there are a lot of issues that are covered, and far more than I was expecting. Of course there’s grief and coping with loss, but there’s also issues of sexuality, identity, acceptance, religion and belief, interpretations of justice, and politics around genocide.
The story touches on all the above issues, their nuances, and more, but what I really like about The Last Man on Earth Club is that whilst it draws attentions to all of these topics, it is about the people in this group, their progress and growth, and how they react from grief. All the other elements are extras to show the kaleidoscope of human emotions and processes of grief. Yet at the same time, when we are following the story of the group, we are also following the story of the group’s therapist who is the one narrating.
There are several different characters, but unlike other books I’ve read where it can get messy and confusing, there is no confusion and characters are easy to follow. Part of this can be attributed to the chapters being presented for each character with their individual sessions and then bringing the group together for group sessions in another chapter, but it can also be attributed to the characters being very clearly defined.
The characters all show an array of responses and personalities, such is the way of human behaviour, and I quite enjoyed their interactions. I found myself warming up to quite a few of them, including the angrier ones, and when it comes to the ones I didn’t warm up to straight away, I found myself feeling something for them by the end. These characters all go through some sort of transformation throughout the story, but also don’t lose what set them apart from each other in the beginning, which is great because the story is a very character driven one.
I found myself drawn along, chapter by chapter, wanting to find out a combination of elements to the story; what would happen with the characters, what occurred on their planet, who was responsible for the devastation on their worlds, and what was the cultures and histories of all these different races. For a post-apocalyptic fan who wants something different or perhaps a break, but also doesn’t want to stray too far from the genre, The Last Man on Earth Club is definitely a book to consider.
For more of my reviews check out www.bookishardour.com
(reviewed within a month of purchase)