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The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva is like nothing that I have ever read before. Initially, I wanted to read this book due to the reality TV aspect but just before I started it, I saw goodreads comments describing the book as dystopian. This made me a bit hesitant because I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it given that dystopian is not a genre that I have ever read. Anyway, with this trepidation, I decided to delve into the narrative and see how it goes.
The story starts off with the reality TV angle which is a narration of past events when the show started filming. I was really excited to read this part. One of my favorite shows of all time is Survivor and this reminded me so much about it. The castaways were named based on their careers just like in Survivor. There was a black doctor (I didn’t think the race was necessary), Engineer, Rancher, Waitress, Zoo, Tracker, Air Force, Exorcist, Cheerleader Boy, Carpenter Girl, Asian Girl(I don’t get this one) and Banker. What was even more interesting was the reason given behind each casting. For instance; there was the dumb, blonde (not my words) who was supposed to provide some entertainment for viewers by being clueless. Tracker was supposed to be the one who adapts to the outdoors mush like Ozzy on Survivor. We had exorcist who reminded me of every obnoxious, weird castaway such as Coach on Survivor. The castaways have individual and team challenges. They also have confessions which I love. Seriously, I loved these sections of the book. We get an omnipresent narrator explaining these scenes.
The second narration is by Zoo which tells of the present events. She is one of the castaways and we get to see her on her own after the pandemic. At first I wasn’t sure whether the events around her were occurring within the show or outside. However, it quickly becomes apparent that something sinister was going on. However, our castaway still thinks that the show is going on. Her narration was filled with a lot of tension. I couldn’t tell what would happen next and I also couldn’t tell when and how Zoo will find out what is going on. The dystopian sections were so dark full of mystery and suspense. For instance; in one scene Zoo encounters bodies but assumes that they are props. I can’t even explain how nerve-wrecking her narration was. This section is reminded me so much of the show Walking Dead. The abandoned cars on highways, empty stores and supermarkets, lonely stretches of roads and streets gave an eerily apocalyptic feeling to the story. I think I like the whole dystopian angle.
The story alternates between the two perspectives and timelines. The show goes on for quite some time while on the other hand; we get to see Zoo trying to survive in the dystopian setting without knowing what is going on. I liked her character in both timelines. She is strong and determined to win. She also has a sensitive side to her despite the hardships that she undergoes. I also liked the fact that she wasn’t one dimensional. Zoo was a complex character and different aspects of her personality became evident with the different scenarios. We also get to know about her past and her reasons for joining the show. All this made her appear more relatable. I also liked Brennan and really sympathized with him. I didn’t get to know the other characters though because they are mainly described only within the show. In addition, I don’t think that I successfully managed to match all the characters with their real names so this was a bit frustrating for me.
Nothing can be worse than what they’ve already put me through. I’d never choose this, not again. But I’m here and I’m a woman of my word and I promised myself I wouldn’t quit.
Interesting, there is also a social media aspects. There are online threads describing the show and the characters. This angle was also quite interesting. It is something that I do a lot. I like following the conversations online and see how others relate to the characters on the reality shows and the things that they do. I am usually online as I watch Reality TV.I definitely liked the fact that the author decided to add this angle.
The book ends with sort of a cliffhanger. Something happens to our protagonist, Zoo. However, she doesn’t know it but as readers, we get to discover it towards the end of the book. This left me with so many questions.
The Last One by Alexandria Oliva was quite an enjoyable book. It was fast paced and as I have indicated, it was like a combination of Survivor and The Walking Dead, two shows that I love. This made it all quite thrilling. I have never encountered a book with such a concept before. As a fan of Reality TV, it made me think about the shows that I like and how ‘real’ they actually are. This book described how editors would edit the character’s dialogues and actions if they go against their intended portrayal. For instance, a villain showing random acts of kindness would be edited because this goes against the characterization of the cast. They were also scenes that are manipulated to heighten drama and make the show more exciting. Another thing that I found interesting is the off-camera support that contestants get. If it is making a fire, we get to see the contestants struggling at it but probably there is a cameraman or expert obscured from viewers offering assistance and guidance to the castaways. Seriously, which part of reality TV is actually real?
If you enjoy reality shows then you may like this book. If you also like dystopian books then this one is for you. If you are fan of thrillers like I am then yes, this one may also interest you. The Last One by Alexandria Oliva is quite an exciting, fascinating read and I definitely recommend it to fans of these genres.
Many thanks to Alexandra Oliva, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book