Reminiscent of The Road and A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World, Last Ones Left Alive is a literary take on the zombie escape journey. The novel starts out with Orpen and her mother’s partner traveling through a post apocalyptic Ireland to an almost mystical place called Phoenix City. They had lived on a small island off the coast of the mainland until Maeve was bitten and now Orpen carries her in a wheelbarrow with the hope of a cure.
Above all else, Orpen is a fighter. Trained for many years by her Mam and Maeve to wield her knifes and block and parry, she feels she is ready to venture out on her own. Flashbacks begin most of the chapters telling about the lessons Orpen learned from her protectors on the little island. To always be alert, to never trust men, to strike first… The skrakes (as Davis-Goff calls the zombies) are just as vicious as any other terrible undead you’ve read about and seen in film. And there’s an interesting transition to becoming one that is described in these pages.
Last Ones Left Alive deals with themes of isolation, women’s empowerment, and coming-of-age. Orpen’s parents kept a lot from her in an effort to protect her from the outside. Their little island was free from skrakes, but when they leave she sees that not all is as she thought. The city dwellers have a distinct way of looking at the world and when she meets up with the few that are still alive, Orpen sees that the world is a much different place than she realized.
I found some very good lines in this short novel. It is quick read and held my interest like that first season of The Walking Dead. She had a goal and the small objectives kept changing as conditions worsened. There’s a lot of depth as one can pick through the underlying meanings of the world that the author has built.
I recommend this one for a reader looking for a strongly-written zombie thriller.
4 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Flatiron Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.