Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Literally the Best Reviews: The Last Day

 The Last Day - Andrew Hunter Murray

Dutton Publishing

379 Pages

Whenever I have a chance to check out the new releases shelves at the Lockport Public Library, I always take the time to browse the science-fiction shelves. For a long time, sci-fi and fantasy were mixed together, which drives me crazy. Recently, the library has begun to separate the two. Thankfully, this makes it much easier to find good science fiction books. Not that there’s anything wrong with fantasy; I just prefer sci-fi. And that is how I honed in on The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray.

It is 2059 and the world has stopped turning. Over a couple of decades after an astronomical event, the Earth slowly spins to a stop, locking half the world in perpetual night, and the other in blazing sunlight. World population has plummeted with half the globe unable to grow food in darkness and most of the other half crippled under relentless sunshine. There are only thin strips of land where food production can occur. From these areas, the world must be fed.

Ellen Hopper is a scientist on a platform in the North Atlantic Ocean. She studies ocean currents and plant and animal life in the water, while occasionally raiding abandoned ships of any valuables they may have as they float by the platform. When an old mentor is dying, she is called back to England by her government to see if she can get any information out of him before he dies. She initially refuses, but two government officials strongarm her into agreeing to take a trip to mainland England.

In the aftermath of the global disaster, England has moved to a totalitarian government, with brutal conformity and outright violence to those who dare to be anti-authority. Isolated on the platform in the ocean, Hopper has been protected from the worst of these tendencies until she gets back to London, where they are all on full display.

Instead of dying platitudes from an old mentor, she is given clues to a secret that could shake the very foundation of the totalitarian government. This news is a threat to their power, and they will do anything they can to hold on to absolute control over their global partners. Off she goes with an old friend to get to the bottom of the matter while trying to stay one step ahead of the state sponsored assassins. 

This novel of the near future lays bare the proclivities of those in power to wield that power with a stronger fist in times of uncertainty. They will use any means necessary to strengthen their hold over the populace, even a global catastrophe. Meanwhile, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to cast off those shackles and remind the government that they work for us. 

While I enjoyed reading this book, I felt that there were a few things that could have been improved. First and foremost, in my opinion, was character development. Ellen’s character was lackluster and as the reader I didn’t really connect with her. I was apathetic to her plight, which in the scenarios she was thrust, should have been easier to want to see succeed. The cast of supporting characters were much the same way. They were more stereotypical than unique. Luckily, the premise was able to elevate the novel to be quite enjoyable.

The other issue I had was with the science behind the stoppage of the Earth. And let me warn you there are some spoilers here.

I had myself convinced that the secret was, in fact, the earth resuming its rotation, albeit in the opposite direction. The British government would have known this and kept it secret in order to keep the citizenry under their thumbs. I’m no scientist, but I imagined that the astronomical event that was powerful enough to slow the Earth to a stop as it crossed the solar system would still have had enough strength in its gravity well, to continue to pull on the planet until it started again in the opposite direction. That would have been an interesting outcome to the book.

Overall, despite its weakness at character development, this story was a warning to the ecological disaster that could await us if we don’t start learning to take better care of ourselves and our homes. Additionally, while we’re consumed with what certain celebrities are doing, more and more of our daily lives are controlled by people who do not have our best interests in mind. This book reminds us to focus on priorities of actual living. 

Craig Bacon loves good, old school science-fiction. While it is harder to find, when he does find it, he is hooked and eager for more.