The Last One

The Last One

by Alexandra Oliva

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Overview

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 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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101966839
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/15/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 316,930
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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.
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Last One"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Alexandra Oliva.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

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The Last One: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am amazed with the quality and originality of this book. I pretty much gave up everything I had to do to read it until the last paragraph. This is about raw outdoor wilderness survival, an epidemic, and a reality show where as days pass facts become blurred and the challenges become more imagined than real...or are they. The reader floats between not knowing for sure what is happening to guessing the truth, but still questioning as the contestant does...what is real. I not only enjoyed this book, but decided to read it again just to pick up the subtle clues I may have over-looked as the main character descended into her own reality. Fascinating book, well written and interesting characters. A total package. Jp
Anonymous More than 1 year 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 .
DiiMI More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 months ago
Well written, and a fresh perspective on the post-apocalyptic novel. A few quibbles with continuity, but great characters, especially the flawed protagonist who I found myself alternately exasperated with and rooting for. Can’t wait for the next novel from this talented author!
Anonymous 4 months ago
I thought this novel had a great premise but it did not live up to my expectations. It jumps back and forth the entire book from past to present and using this device so consistently gets annoying. Also, the main character’s ability to delude herself to reality stretches way beyond belief: it’s simply impossible for her to be quite this oblivious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but once it got me, I couldn’t put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was hoping for some big twist or something. Felt a lot of build-up with no release other than the fact that her husband was still alive. Unless the message was that the big reveal was just nothing, which if so makes this rating one star short, then I missed the bigger theme.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. Interesting combination of the challenges and adventure of reality shows like Amazing Race and Survivor, and the harsh terror of Fear the Walking Dead. Someone said the characters weren't well-defined, but the whole thing about reality television is that the characters are only as real as the editors shape them to be by how they cut the show together and this is shown quite well here. I liked our unlikely survivor Zoo/Mae/Sam and thought her the most relatable of the contestants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding work for a first novel. If this is any indication her name will become very familiar to those like me who can't imagine life without a current read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must have liked it as I read it in two days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing story of survival with a twist. This writer knows how to craft a well written, complete story that holds your interest. I will add this to my list of top shelf books. Let me say it was great to read a book where you can't figure out what is really happening until the end.
TGM1969 More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book! A cool melding of modern reality shows and reality as it is. What is true, what is false?
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars One of these days we will be granted half stars, but until then I will have to decide whether to round-up or down. “The Last One” was too good to give three stars but had a few problems that keep it from being a solid four. The premise is a game show meant to scare the contestants and audience, complete with fake scares and stranding people alone in a horrific world. As could be predicted, something real goes horribly wrong. “Zoo” is left alone to try to survive. I loved all of that, but there were disorienting jumps between her and the production team that did not always align with the same timeline. It also had a tendency to drag at points. That being said, “The Last One” is still a fun and creepy read that will satisfy those who enjoy those sorts of things. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somewhat interesting book but it goes too far. It just isn't believable that she wouldn't know. Best part of the book is the author's "inside" look at rhe manipulation and cruelty that serves as entertainment with some reality shows. Otherwise this is just a very sad book. If I were the editor I would have toned it down. Less detail about tasks. Contnued character development of the participants (my favorite part) and less foolidhness about whsr was or wasn't the game. Oh and what wad in the bed.
pooled_ink More than 1 year ago
pooled ink Reviews: THE LAST ONE is a nail-biting, eye-squinting, body-rocking psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from page one. With no care to waste on sparing feelings the story snaps you to attention and drags you along writhing with suspense. Grab a copy of this book, schedule a thunderstorm, and read like a bullet in the night. Utterly thrilling, intense, and scintillating this book is not one to underestimate. If you’re a fan of survival/competition reality TV then you’ll get along just fine with this book. If you’d rather skip the scripted junk and spare your time only on the real nitty gritty then you too are in luck. There’s plenty of post-apocalyptic survivalist info in this book. That’s something I really appreciated with this story, it didn’t hesitate to be real. It didn’t coddle the readers or make nonsense up just to add spectacle and drama. Did it mess with your head? Heck yeah and it totally messed with Zoo’s head. But the survival aspects were harsh, questionable, and blunt. Read my FULL review here: https://pooledink.com/2016/05/06/the-last-one-arc-review/
ethel55 More than 1 year 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.