The Last One: A Novel

The Last One: A Novel

4.1 15
by Alexandra Oliva
     
 

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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

Overview

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 man-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.
 
Praise for The Last One
 
“[Alexandra] Oliva brilliantly scrutinizes the recorded (and heavily revised) narratives we believe, and the last one hundred pages will have the reader constantly guessing just what Zoo is capable of doing to find her way back home.”Washington Post

“A high-concept, high-octane affair . . . The conceit is undoubtedly clever and . . . well executed, but what makes The Last One such a page-turner is Zoo herself: practical, tough-minded and appealing.”The Guardian

“Oliva takes this (possibly) post-apocalyptic setting, grafts on a knowledgeable skewering of the inner workings of reality television and gives us a gripping story of survival. . . . This is the genius of Oliva’s storytelling. . . . [She] makes a stunning debut with this page turner, and becomes a writer to watch.”Seattle Times

“Oliva delivers a pulse-pounding psychological tale of survival. . . .  [She] masterfully manipulates her characters and the setting, creating a mash-up of popular TV genres: Survivor meets The Walking Dead.”Bookpage
 
“The TV show Survivor meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in Oliva’s stellar debut. . . . Fueled by brilliantly intimate and insightful writing as well as an endearing and fully realized female lead, this apocalyptic novel draws its power from Zoo’s realizations about society and herself as she struggles to survive long enough to somehow make it back to her home.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Last One seamlessly melds two of our contemporary obsessions—the threat of global catastrophe and the staged drama of reality TV—into a fiercely imagined tale of the human psyche under stress. This is an uncompromising, thought-provoking debut.”—Justin Cronin
 
“Like The Hunger Games, Alexandra Oliva’s novel is page-turning and deeply unsettling.”—Rosamund Lupton
 
“Tense and gorgeous and so damn clever . . . I loved every second.”—Lauren Beukes

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 05/09/2016
The TV show Survivor meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in Oliva’s stellar debut. One of the 12 contestants on In the Dark, a reality show set in the remote Pennsylvania wilderness and billed as a “reality experience of unprecedented scale,” is Zoo, so called by the show’s producers because she works at a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center. Zoo decided to go on In the Dark as one last big adventure before settling down to start a family with her husband. The host explains that the game is a race with no finish line; the only way out is to quit. Trouble arrives in the form of an unidentified pathogen that begins to kill off a substantial portion of the world’s population. Alone on an extended solo challenge, Zoo has no idea that the lines between reality and reality show have been blurred into nonexistence. Fueled by brilliantly intimate and insightful writing as well as an endearing and fully realized female lead, this apocalyptic novel draws its power from Zoo’s realizations about society and herself as she struggles to survive long enough to somehow make it back to her home and, hopefully, her husband. Agent: Lucy Carson, Friedrich Agency. (July)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Last One
 
“[Alexandra] Oliva brilliantly scrutinizes the recorded (and heavily revised) narratives we believe, and the last one hundred pages will have the reader constantly guessing just what Zoo is capable of doing to find her way back home.”Washington Post
 
“Alexandra Oliva has written a debut novel that combines elements of reality TV with those of a post-apocalyptic world to create a tense atmosphere, filled with memorable characters who move through the game and surrounding world with varying levels of proficiency. . . . [She] also does an excellent job of portraying the psychological and emotional traumas that the contestants face. . . . For fans of Survivor and The Hunger Games, Oliva has melded the best of both worlds and added her own unusual twist.”Shelf Awareness
 
“Oliva takes this (possibly) post-apocalyptic setting, grafts on a knowledgeable skewering of the inner workings of reality television and gives us a gripping story of survival. . . . This is the genius of Oliva’s storytelling. . . . [She] makes a stunning debut with this page turner, and becomes a writer to watch.”Seattle Times
 
“A high-concept, high-octane affair . . . The conceit is undoubtedly clever and . . . well executed, but what makes The Last One such a page-turner is Zoo herself: practical, tough-minded and appealing.”The Guardian
 
“Alexandra Oliva delivers a pulse-pounding psychological tale of survival. . . .  [She] masterfully manipulates her characters and the setting, creating a mash-up of popular TV genres: Survivor meets The Walking Dead.”Bookpage
 
“The TV show Survivor meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in Oliva’s stellar debut. . . . Fueled by brilliantly intimate and insightful writing as well as an endearing and fully realized female lead, this apocalyptic novel draws its power from Zoo’s realizations about society and herself as she struggles to survive long enough to somehow make it back to her home.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Part wilderness-survival thriller and part dystopian pandemic story . . . a gripping portrayal of an ordinary person’s evolving survival instincts as she realizes she can’t trust the reality she sees.”—Booklist
 
“In her debut novel, Oliva has written a book that is clever in the best sense: she is able to skewer reality show culture and dystopian tropes while never letting concept or critique become more important than a good yarn. The novel is thoroughly steeped in its times . . . but unlike other dystopian novels, it doesn’t so much use contemporary times to warn us about potential future collapse as it shows what impact our times have on the ways we think about identity and human relationships. An astute and compelling entry into the post-apocalypse genre.”Kirkus Reviews

The Last One seamlessly melds two of our contemporary obsessions—the threat of global catastrophe and the staged drama of reality TV—into a fiercely imagined tale of the human psyche under stress. This is an uncompromising, thought-provoking debut.”—Justin Cronin
 
“Haunting, moving, and remarkable, Alexandra Oliva’s debut novel is clever in its concept and gripping in its delivery. This propulsive book is for everyone who ever thought reality television signaled the end of the world.”—Karen Joy Fowler

“Taut, tense, and at times almost unbearably real, The Last One is both a compelling read and a terrifyingly believable evocation of survival against the odds.”—Ruth Ware
 
“Like The Hunger Games, Alexandra Oliva’s novel is page-turning and deeply unsettling.”—Rosamund Lupton
 
“Tense and gorgeous and so damn clever . . . I loved every second.”—Lauren Beukes

Kirkus Reviews
2016-04-13
A young woman's participation in a survival reality show conceals an actual apocalyptic event in the outside world. Telling herself that she is after one last big adventure before starting a family, Zoo (as she is dubbed by producers) decides to participate in a hard-core wilderness survival show. The novel's first narrative strand takes us through the show's initial week: we see a series of group and solo challenges, such as tracking animals and filtering water, accomplished in order to earn prizes. We are also introduced to the reality show contestants, who are called by easy-label names like Asian Chick and Air Force. Zoo quickly rises as a leader among the contestants—she's easy to get along with and has "moxie." But intercut with the narrative of the show's first week is that of Zoo alone, on what she believes is a long solo challenge. Thinking that the production team has cleared out entire towns and strategically placed corpselike "props" (complete with the smell of decay), Zoo moves east in the direction of her home, determined to be the last one standing and the winner of the $1 million prize. In her debut novel, Oliva has written a book that is clever in the best sense: she is able to skewer reality show culture and dystopian tropes while never letting concept or critique become more important than a good yarn. The novel is thoroughly steeped in its times—the use of a Reddit-like forum plays a key plot role—but unlike other dystopian novels, it doesn't so much use contemporary times to warn us about potential future collapse as it shows what impact our times have on the ways we think about identity and human relationships. An astute and compelling entry into the post-apocalypse genre.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101965085
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/12/2016
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
57,712
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn’t yet feel ill, and he’s no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he’d be shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He’s been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His T-­shirt reads: coffee in, genius out. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-­two-­inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.

The opening credits. A flash of leaves, oak and maple, followed immediately by an image of a woman who described her complexion as “mocha” on her application, and aptly so. She has dark eyes and large breasts barely contained in an orange sport top. Her hair is a mass of tight black spirals, each placed with perfection.

Next, panoramic mountains, one of the nation’s northeastern glories, green and vibrant at the peak of summer. Then, a rabbit poised to bolt and, limping through a field, a young white man with buzzed-­off hair that glints like mica in the sun. A close-­up of this same man, looking stern and young with sharp blue eyes. Next, a petite woman of Korean descent wearing a blue plaid shirt and kneeling on one leg. She’s holding a knife and looking at the ground. Behind her, a tall bald man with panther-­dark skin and a week’s worth of stubble. The camera zooms in. The woman is skinning a rabbit. This is followed by another still, the man with the dark skin, but this time without the stubble. His brown-­black eyes meet the camera calmly and with confidence, a look that says I mean to win.

A river. A gray cliff face dotted with lichen—­and another white man, this one with wild red hair. He clings to the cliff, the focus of the shot manipulated so that the rope holding him fades into the rock, like a salmon-­colored slick.

The next still is of a light-­skinned, light-­haired woman, her green eyes shining through brown-­rimmed square glasses. The editor pauses on this image. There’s something about this woman’s smile and the way she’s looking off to the side of the camera that he likes. She seems more genuine than the others. Maybe she’s just better at pretending, but still, he likes it, he likes her, because he can pretend too. The production team is ten days into filming, and this woman is the one he’s pegged as Fan Favorite. The animal-­loving blonde, the eager student. The quick study with the easy laugh. So many angles from which to choose—­if only it were his choice alone.

The studio door opens and a tall white man strides in. The editor stiffens in his chair as the off-­site producer comes to lean over his shoulder.

“Where do you have Zoo now?” asks the producer.

“After Tracker,” says the editor. “Before Rancher.”

The producer nods thoughtfully and takes a step away. He’s wearing a crisp blue shirt, a dotted yellow tie, and jeans. The editor is as light-­skinned as the producer but would darken in the sun. His ancestry is complicated. Growing up, he never knew which ethnicity box to check; in the last census he selected white.

“What about Air Force? Did you add the flag?” asks the producer.

The editor swivels in his chair. Backlit by the computer monitor, his dark hair shimmers like a jagged halo. “You were serious about that?” he asks.

“Absolutely,” says the producer. “And who do you have last?”

“Still Carpenter Chick, but—­”

“You can’t end with her now.”

But that’s what I’m working on is what the editor had been about to say. He’s been putting off rearranging the opening credits since yesterday, and he still has to finish the week’s finale. He has a long day ahead. A long night too. Annoyed, he turns back to his screen. “I was thinking either Banker or Black Doctor,” he says.

“Banker,” says the producer. “Trust me.” He pauses, then asks, “Have you seen yesterday’s clips?”

Three episodes a week, no lead time to speak of. They might as well be broadcasting live. It’s unsustainable, thinks the editor. “Just the first half hour.”

The producer laughs. In the glow of the monitor his straight teeth reflect yellow. “We struck gold,” he says. “Waitress, Zoo, and, uh . .  .” He snaps his fingers, trying to remember. “Rancher. They don’t finish in time and Waitress flips her shit when they see the”—­air quotes—­“  ‘body.’ She’s crying and hyperventilating—­and Zoo snaps.”

The editor shifts nervously in his seat. “Did she quit?” he asks. Disappointment warms his face. He was looking forward to editing her victory, or, more likely, her graceful defeat in the endgame. Because he doesn’t know how she could possibly overcome Tracker; Air Force has his tweaked ankle working against him, but Tracker is so steady, so knowledgeable, so strong, that he seems destined to win. It is the editor’s job to make Tracker’s victory seem a little less inevitable, and he was planning to use Zoo as his primary tool in this. He enjoys editing the two of them together, creating art from contrast.

“No, she didn’t quit,” says the producer. He claps the shoulder of the editor. “But she was mean.”

The editor looks at Zoo’s soft image, the kindness in those green eyes. He doesn’t like this turn of events. This doesn’t fit at all.

“She yells at Waitress,” the producer continues, “tells her she’s the reason they lost. All this shit. It’s fantastic. I mean, she apologizes like a minute later, but whatever. You’ll see.”

Even the best among us can break, thinks the editor. That’s the whole idea behind the show, after all—­to break the contestants. Though the twelve who entered the ring were told that it’s about survival. That it’s a race. All true, but. Even the title they were told was a deception. Subject to change, as the fine print read. The title in its textbox does not read The Woods, but In the Dark.

“Anyway, we need the updated credits by noon,” says the producer.

“I know,” says the editor.

“Cool. Just making sure.” The producer purses his fingers into a pistol and pops a shot at the editor, then turns to leave. He pauses, nodding toward the monitor. The screen has dimmed into energy-­saving mode, but Zoo’s face is still visible, though faint. “Look at her, smiling,” he says. “Poor thing had no idea what she was in for.” He laughs, the soft sound somewhere between pity and glee, then exits to the hall.

The editor turns to his computer. He shakes his mouse, brightening Zoo’s smiling face, then gets back to work. By the time he finishes the opening credits, lethargy will be settling into his bones. The first cough will come as he completes the week’s finale early tomorrow morning. By the following evening he will become an early data point, a standout before the explosion. Specialists will strive to understand, but they won’t have time. Whatever this is, it lingers before it strikes. Just along for the ride, then suddenly behind the wheel and gunning for a cliff. Many of the specialists are already infected.

The producer too will die, five days from today. He will be alone in his 4,100-­square-­foot home, weak and abandoned, when it happens. In his final moments of life he will unconsciously lap at the blood leaking from his nose, because his tongue will be just that dry. By then, all three episodes of the premiere week will have aired, the last a delightfully mindless break from breaking news. But they’re still filming, mired in the region hit first and hardest. The production team tries to get everyone out, but they’re on Solo Challenges and widespread. There were contingency plans in place, but not for this. It’s a spiral like that child’s toy: a pen on paper, guided by plastic. A pattern, then something slips and—­madness. Incompetency and panic collide. Good intentions give way to self-­preservation. No one knows for sure what happened, small scale or large. No one knows precisely what went wrong. But before he dies, the producer will know this much: Something went wrong.

Meet the Author

Alexandra Oliva was born and raised in upstate New York. She has a BA in history from Yale University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. The Last One is her first novel.

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The Last One: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
DiiMI 5 months ago
Reality TV, admit it, we have all watched at least one. We have also sat in judgment of players after only seeing what the moneymakers want us to see. And. We. Fall. For. It., even as we say we are too smart to be manipulated. What happens when survival on a Reality TV show and reality itself become all too similar and how would we understand the difference after the physical and mental trauma of facing staged life and death situations daily for weeks? Twelve contestants are chosen to test their mental and physical endurance. How well they will face challenges as an individual and as part of a team, knowing there will be only one winner? Through bite-sized looks at each contestant, we are given a look at the behind the scenes story of one such show. One woman will stand out and she may be the only one who knows the truth of what has happened in the world they all left behind to play a game. The Last One by Alexandra Oliva is a stark look at the human condition as we see it through the eyes of showmanship and of a reality that may or may not be real. Alexandra Oliva’s tale is raw, brutal at times as tempers flare, insecurities and egos clash in a game of survival created for the masses to follow, comment on and feel superior to the players while armchair quarterbacking. We are invited to discover what happens, what is said and what ends up on the cutting room floor. We are also asked to determine if the apocalypse has come for more than these contestants as the world continues without them? Is it possible that money will scream so loudly and we have become so immune to our own humanity that while the world falls apart, the show must go on? One woman will test the limits of herself, the game and the world beyond. For those of us who do NOT like reality shows, The Last One gives a shining example of what is wrong with them as they encourage distrust and anger while stripping humanity down to its ugly scars. I received an ARC edition from Ballantine Books in exchange for my honest review
RochelleRosesandThorns 5 months ago
Rarely does a book come along that is completely different. That surprises you. Knocks your socks off. Horrifies you. And fascinates you. “Zoo” is a veterinarian participating in a survivalist reality program. I avoid these shows. For one thing, my idea of roughing it is a hotel with no Jacuzzi. For another, I hate programs where people get voted off. At least on Zoo’s show, people are eliminated by being the last ones to complete various “challenges.” But even Zoo and the members of her team challenge are disgusted when the “lost and injured hiker” they’ve been tracking stumbles over the side of a cliff when they get there because they were ten minutes late. The sexy bimbo (thrown in by the producers for eye candy) stubbed her toe and spent fifteen minutes sitting on a rock crying. What the viewers don’t know is that the team can see a cable secured from the top of the cliff and the battered and bloody dead body at the bottom is a dummy. The “brains” are cottage cheese and food coloring, and the “blood” is colored corn syrup. So when Zoo finds herself alone on a challenge and comes across a house with balloons in her signature blue color with a mat that says “Home Sweet Home,” it’s easy to delude herself into believing the challenge is to make her way home following the rules of the game. And to believe the dead bodies in the house are more props. As are the rest of the ones she encounters on her journey. I’m not normally drawn to apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic books, but Zoo’s journey—her absolute inability to accept reality, the way she rationalizes the things that happen to her, made The Last One truly one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in quite awhile. You have to read it yourself.
StoreyBookReviews 5 months ago
I saw this book while I was at BEA and almost picked it up but didn't. Something brought it my attention again and I got a copy from Netgalley. I am so glad that I did! This story had me on the edge of my seat and I could not put the book down. It was like Survivor meets Hunger Games. There are 12 people that agree to do this reality TV show and they had to survive out in the wild with little help from modern technology. What they don't know is that the winner is the "last man standing". Each of the contestants are doing this for a myriad of reasons and it isn't all about the money. Each one has their own skill set/strengths and weaknesses and at times they band together and other times it is each man for itself. you will find that you like and hate various characters and some you will just shake your head - like the one they call the Exorcist since he claimed he exorcised demons from people. While there are 12 main characters the focus really is on Sam (or Zoo as she is called) and the story does not follow a straight time line, it does jump back and forth in time but that is what held my interest - reading what they went through during the show and what happened to her during a certain point in the show until the end. I will admit the ending seemed to have stopped abruptly and certain things are not wrapped up...but I'm not going to tell you what, you will have to read the book to find out. Maybe it was left that way for a follow up book? Just a guess on my part but not sure how there could be a sequel.
Twink 6 months ago
I always get a little tingle when I realize after the first few pages of a new book that I'm not going to be able to put it down. That's exactly what happened with Alexandra Oliva's debut novel The Last One. I started it early on a Sunday morning and read straight through to the end (somewhat delaying our afternoon plans....) Admit it, you've watched at least one episode of a reality television show. (There's lots to choose from!) In The Last One, Oliva has twelve contestants participating in a remote wilderness challenge, seeing how far they can push themselves. "That's the whole idea behind the show, after all - to break the contestants. Though the twelve who entered the ring were told that it's about survival. That it's a race. All true, but. Even the title they were told was a deception. Subject to change, as the fine print read." Oliva nicely skewers reality tv, with the producer and editor's comments, the cheesy host, the dehumanizing of the participants by giving them descriptors as names - Waitress, Tracker, Black Doctor, Zoo, Biology and others. It's only the contestants themselves who use their real names. The manipulation of what has been filmed, presenting the storyline they want viewers to see. "All they care about is that the viewers watch to the end." Chat room responses to the show reinforce this. But while they're removed from society, something happens. Some sort of deadly pathogen strikes the country. While some participants realize this, others don't - they still believe they're on the show - and that the cameras are still rolling. Zoo is one of those who has no idea. The reader walks along with Zoo, who is determined not to quit - she is going to be the last one standing. We know something has happened and see Zoo's thoughts and choices through that knowledge and question her logic. But seen through her eyes, her choices make sense. She is in survival mode - both physically and mentally. "I had no idea it would be like this. They didn't say anything about a fake pandemic or props shaped like dead people. About animatronics or feral cats. Empty towns and abandoned children. They didn't say anything about being so alone for so long." Dystopian/apocalyptic novels are a favourite of mine and Oliva has put a delicious spin on hers. I really liked Zoo as a character (her real name is only mentioned once). Her determination, resilience and stamina to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Oliva's imagining of her journey totally captured me - who knows what's around the next bend, what she will face, if she'll survive. There was no way to predict where the story was going to go and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book. Oliva ends the book on a great turn. I had wondered how she could finish off such a great read, but she surprised me. The ending was just right. The Last One is absolutely one of my favourite reads this year. I can't wait to see what Oliva writes next.
Gail-Cooke 6 months ago
Brilliantly written and imaginatively conceived one can only heap praise on Alexandra Oliva’s first novel. Compelling, astute, timely The Last One is a stellar entry in the field of apocalyptic tales. Zoo as she is called because she works at a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center wants to have one last adventure before starting a family. A devotee of TV she decides to become one of twelve contestants on a reality show called In The Dark and set in the wilderness of Pennsylvania. As explained by the show’s host there is no finish line, the only way out is to quit. Well, quitting isn’t in Zoo’s vocabulary and before long she’s a standout among the contestants. Others say she has “moxie.” However, before long we see Zoo alone believing she is on a long solo challenge. She thinks the show has gotten rid of whole towns and scattered make believe corpses about. Zoo heads east toward her home, determined to be the last one standing and winner of the million dollar prize. She is unaware that a mysterious pathogen has begun destroying the population as the lines between reality and reality show become blurred. As Zoo struggles to stay alive and strong enough to find her way to home and husband we are privy to her thoughts about society and herself. Listeners will find themselves examining the place of the media in our lives - does it affect our judgment? Is what we see real or unreal? Mike Chamberlain is an actor and voice-over artist who along with Nicol Zanzarella deliver outstanding performances as they bring us this story of a human psyche under enormous stress. The Last One provokes thoughts as few other stories do.
Deb-Krenzer 6 months ago
This was definitely a way out there premise. Your starring or well playing a reality game for tv like Survivor and everything is cool. You film a few days doing team challenges and lose a few members and the game goes on. Then it comes down to solo time. About this time the production crew is starting to get sick. There is an epidemic and a quarantine. Your solo in the woods. You know NOTHING of this. The book goes back and forth from the filming of the series (before the epidemic) to just Zoo "the last one?" (after the epidemic). The concentration is on the TV series while the epidemic makes cameo appearances. It's crazy how she falls for it for so long, but the author makes it believable. I really like the surprise ending. I will be talking about this one for a long time. Special thanks to Random House and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
SheTreadsSoftly 6 months ago
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva is a very, very good debut novel about a contestant in a survival reality TV show during an apocalyptic plague. It is a brilliant, shrewd, clever, astute novel. Very highly recommended. In the opening of The Last One, you know that people are going to be dying from an unknown illness. As a new survival reality TV show is starting, people behind the scenes are dying. They try to get everyone out, but the contestants are on solo challenges and spread out across the wilderness area. The first chapter goes to a female contestant nicknamed Zoo. She is alone and trying to find the next clue during what she believes is a long solo challenge. She has been sick for several days, she thinks from bad water, so she knows she must be behind the others. Zoo is sure that the signs of destruction and distress she encounters are staged for the TV show. Alternate chapters show the beginning of the show, introduce the characters for the program and their nicknames. These chapters go through the first week of filming for the program, during group challenges. In-between the chapters that cover the early action in the show, are the present day chapters where Zoo is looking for anything marked with light blue, the color for her clues in the show. She is trying to make her way to the next clue and sure that everything she encounters is tied into the show and are props - including bodies. Also included in the narrative are snippets from a fan forum for the TV show, which become important. This is one intelligent, insightful post-apocalyptic novel. The world has changed, but we are viewing it through Zoo's eyes - and she is sure bodies are props and the things she encounters are staged. It's all for the production. We see in the early show chapters how encounters and actions are edited out or edited to change the viewers perception. Zoo is competitive enough to stay in the game and keep playing by the rules. The rules and the idea that she is still in a survival game cloud her judgement and undermine her intuition. The only way out of the show is to quit, and Zoo is determined to stay in the game and win the million dollars. She can explain away everything she sees as being part of the game. The writing is incredible. Olivia's novel becomes reality and it is easy to see why Zoo believes the show is still ongoing, even when the surroundings seem to scream something is wrong. At the same time, the insights into Zoo's character are perceptive, discerning, and adroit. Zoo lets us know more about her inner most thoughts as the novel progresses. She is a fully developed character placed in an unbelievable situation that she encounters while thinking on some level that it is all staged. This is likely to be on my top ten list for the year. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes. http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-last-one.html
Ellonkah 6 months ago
First off, I would like to thank Ballantine Books and the author for letting me read this galley. It starts out like Survivor and ends more like The Hunger Games…with extra players. Twelve people sign up for a wilderness realty show, but as they make their way through the planned twists and turns of the series, something terrible happens in the “real” world. Some of the contestants are evacuated, but the disease is brutal and fast-spreading, and most of the crew is dead before they can evacuate everyone. One of those not evacuated is Zoo, whom we follow for most of the book. She trudges on, oblivious to the ravaged world outside the show, thinking the horrors she encounters are made for TV, made for her to give up and go home. I found the book to be fast-moving and easy to follow, even though some of the chapters are incredibly long. The author does a good job of distinguishing the characters, so the reader doesn’t get lost in how many of them there are. Sometimes you need to know a lot about people (Zoo), but sometimes you don’t really need to know so much (Carpenter Chick) – this book strikes a really good balance. It’s a little dystopian, a little apocalyptic, a little bit love story –not too much of any one thing, but enough of those things to hook readers who are interested in those genres. I’d love to read a sequel.
sandrabrazier 6 months ago
Twelve contestants on a popular survivor show struggle to compete against one another in order to survive. One of the women, Zoo, wanted an adventure to help her decide whether or not to settle down and start a family. However, all of the contestants get more than they bargained for. Separated from the real world, they aren't aware that something big is happening out there. When Zoo happens to see some clues of what is happening, she believes it is just more props of the show. Her belief that she s still on the survivor show convinces her that all the things she sees are also from the show. Our author alternates narration between the action of the show, and a first person narration by Zoo, one of the contestants as she is separated from the others during a solo challenge. As reality becomes blurred for our contestant, so it becomes blurred for us, the readers. Both Zoo and the reader are convinced that everything she encounters are part of the show. Eventually, the reader discovers that some of the things that Zoo sees are not props but part of the tragedy occurring in the world. This is well-written, intelligent, and difficult to put down. Packed with excitement, most readers will love this book. However, as the characters in this book became confused, I, as a reader, became confused, too. This makes the reader want to read and read, to discover the truth. In this way, the reader is able to experience a little of what the characters are experiencing. Enjoy!
Anonymous 3 days ago
While this was not the most riveting book I have ever read I did like it. I enjoyed the flipping between the present and the past to flesh out the characters. I thought Sam (Mae) was an interesting character who survives almost by accident. Some of the scenes while "filming" made me laugh as I am a reality TV show junkie , but one who never thought too much of what went on while doing the show. Overall, glad I purchased it, I will keep an eye out of for this author in the future .
ethel55 17 days ago
I thought the reality show premise of this dystopian tale was intriguing. Much like last year’s Station Eleven, the story moved between the time before and after a disease of some sort that hit much of America. Cut off as they were from the real world, I thought there’d be a bit more to the that side of it, but instead we plunge pretty quickly into the early filming of the show and the novel’s present. I found it a bit confusing at first to not know the real names of the characters, heroine included, just the nicknames the reality show had for their group of survivalists. Zoo emerges as our heroine and we follow her dogged steps as she heads toward home, guided by clues, props and prizes from the television crew. She is very single minded in her purpose—the prize would help fund their baby account for her and her husband if she wins. What I thought was interesting was even when faced with growing evidence that something might be wrong, it is only when she becomes accompanied by a young boy, does she start to waver a bit. Even before she breaks her glasses, she can’t, or won’t see what’s happening around her. This was a pretty fast read and I have to admit, I was hoping for a bit brighter ending.
Anonymous 24 days ago
I'm a reality t.v. fan, so I thought this book would be interesting to read. Sadly, it was disappointing. The characters were not well-developed. The organization was disjointed. It was a mess.
Anonymous 28 days ago
I never wanted to put the book down!
feather_lashes 3 months ago
★★★½ The Last One is a standalone, apocalyptic thriller written by Alexandra Oliva. I loved the original concept of the storyline. The heroine: Zoo signs up for a survival-based reality TV show and while competing, an epidemic of apocalyptic proportions occurs. However, she believes all the horrific real life surrounding her is a setup for the show. The dangers she encounters are props or buffered by the safety of hidden cameras all around her. Her physical and mental fatigue show genuine reactions on her part, but she always has the thought in the back of her mind, "This is just part of the show." OMG, this element was incredibly scary for me as a reader. Ms. Oliva lets the reader known what is going on and we're left to watch Zoo wander around in a very dangerous wasteland thinking otherwise. The suspense was cringeworthy! Personally, I wish the book only focused on Zoo and her survival during the apocalypse, but it doesn't. Flashbacks of the reality TV show are incorporated throughout which I initially found confusing for multiple reasons. The flashbacks refer to the characters by the nicknames producers assigned them for the show and Zoo's internal diaglogue uses their real names. It was quite the puzzle to match them up and I finally got to the point I stopped trying because I didn't care about the flashbacks anyway. Compared to what Zoo was going through present-day, the TV show just didn't matter to me anymore. The group dynamics, structured challenges, and behind-the-scenes production decisions took backseat and I was frustrated they kept popping up. But as a I write this, I'm thinking maybe that was the point Ms. Oliva was trying to make. Reality TV is not real and real-life is much more interesting. Hmmm... Ms. Oliva gives readers another thing to think about in The Last One. The ending feels like a cliffhanger of sorts but there is no follow-up or closure planned to date. It appears it is meant to be an open ending. Because even though reality TV may have complete control over context and perception of every scene, the author doesn't do that to her readers. She allows us to imagine the ending we want which I think is pretty cool. Well-done on a good debut Ms. Oliva! I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this new author. My favorite quote: "Even the best among us can break."
BuckeyeAngel 4 months ago
The first to die on the production team will be the editor, he only went out in the field once to see the woods and met the men who’s footage he would be shaping. The production team had nicknames for the participating people like: Cheerleader Boy, Zoo, Waitress, Banker, Black Doctor, Tracker, Rancher, Carpenter Girl, and Air Force. Tracker seem destines to win the complete challenge. The editor has to make it more inevitable. The producer will die in five days. The production teams tries to get everyone out of the field but everyone is doing Solo Challenges and are all over. No one knows what went wrong but people are dying and bodies are adding up. This is a new reality show about survival but communications have broken down and none of the contestants this is no longer a game. There were twelve contestants that started this show. Then a woman who the production team call Zoo is looking for food it’s been about a week since she ate and she has little water but she was really ill for awhile but is better now although still weak , very hungry and thirsty, She has seen three corpses and doesn’t realize they weren’t just props, But she is determined not to quit no matter what. Not knowing now quitting isn’t an option. Alot of what I read was slow as far as I am concerned. The way the contestants just have nicknames and no back story i Just couldn't relate to or connect to the characters so I really didn’t care about them . I also didn’t like how how the story switched back and forth in time. I just couldn’t get into this story in any way. I understand what this was suppose to be about and all just for me it wasn’t successful and I just didn’t enjoy this story. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.