Publication Date: 06/02/2019
The year is 2059, and the Earth has stopped spinning. Half the world freezes in perpetual night while the other burns in never-ending sunlight. In the thin strip of survivable land, Britain languishes under a draconian new government. Coming home to visit a dying friend, scientist Ellen Hopper uncovers a conspiracy that could change everything she believes to be true . . .
Perhaps best known for his work behind the scenes on TV panel show QI and as one of the hosts of the related (and brilliant) podcast No Such Thing As A Fish, Andrew Hunter Murray now adds novelist to his resume. As a book, it’s strong. As a debut, it’s simply phenomenal.
The Last Day straddles the line between end-of-the-world drama and contemporary thriller. Neither of these is a genre that I’m terribly familiar with, but regardless of that I enjoyed it very much. After a slow start, the pace quickens in the middle section and then breaks into a sprint for the final hundred pages. It has the pacing of a thriller, told across a large scope. It’s one of those books I can easily see being adapted for television, and that’s an adaptation I would happily watch .
While the plot, with its shoot-outs, government conspiracies and tense investigations, is firmly rooted in the world of thrillers, the setting is apocalyptic SF at its finest. The Waterstones edition (and possibly others) contains an afterword from the author describing the science behind the Stop – as the future inhabitants of Earth refer to the pause in rotation. As he notes, it’s extremely unlikely, but not entirely out of the question. It’s a nice little nod to science, and makes the rest of the worldbuilding seem even more plausible. the burning hole in the ozone, the icebound wastes of America, the redistributed climate of Britain, all of it is perfectly believable.
Even more believable, however unfortunate the fact may be, is the social aspect of the worldbuilding. I’m not a fan of words like ‘timely’ or ‘relevant’ in reviews, but there’s no denying that there are certain parallels between The Last Day and the world we currently face. It’s all too easy to see how we could slip into the oppressive regime seen within the novel, perhaps even without needing a global cataclysm to spur us on. While Prime Minster Davenport and his party keep britain running, it’s certainly not a Britain I’d choose to live in. With newspapers reduced to propaganda and armed bandits roaming the countryside, it’s far from the salvation of the human race that Davenport claims.
Make no mistake about it. This is an incredibly bleak book. There is a very tangible sense that the end of the world has not been survived, but that humanity is slowly slipping away into oblivion. And that’s before Ellen learns the secrets that the government is ready to kill to protect. Even with the small moments of kindness and hope, it’s hard to feel any optimism while reading The Last Day. Despite this, it never quite treads into overwhelming the reader. If anything, it makes you want to read faster. Once you’ve got into the meat of the story, this is a book you won’t want to put down.
A book as chilling and brutal as this is one you should definitely read, but perhaps have something more cheery to follow it up with.