First published back in March of 2019, ‘Last Ones Left Alive’ formed the debut novel from Irish born author Sarah Davis-Goff.

DLS Synopsis:
Orpen’s childhood had been sheltered from much of the terrifying chaos that had occurred across the mainland and beyond.  The island of Slanbeg had been their sanctuary.  A place where her mother and Maeve had been able to hide Orphen from the danger that roamed the rest of the world.  An island free from the Skrake.

As Orpen grew older, although still nothing but a child but now an increasingly capable one, they’d taught her about the danger out there.  On her seventh birthday the training began.  Orpen’s mam taught her about how to live, but it was Maeve who taught her about how to survive.

The Skrake are attracted to noise.  Noise, fire and movement.  Their vision is good, their smell exceptional, and they’re afraid of nothing.  Although the Skrake are nevertheless dead.  Corpses roaming the land, hunting for flesh.  Spreading their infection through their vicious bite.

However, when her mam succumbs to the virus and Maeve is also bitten, Orpen is faced with a tough choice.  The infection coursing through Maeve’s bloodstream is slow, and Orpen believes she has time.  If the stories of Phoenix City are to be believed, there could just be a way to save her beloved sister.  But to do that, she’d have to venture onto the mainland.  Into harm’s way.

With Maeve secured into a wheelbarrow, and her trusty black and white dog by her side, little more than a child herself, Orpen will cross the water to mainland Ireland, in the search for other survivors, and hopefully, possibly, a cure…

DLS Review:
Man, is there an abundance of post-apocalyptic fiction out there these days?!  I thought the subgenre had a heyday back in the 1970’s, but the recent(ish) re-emergence, sparked by the likes of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ (2006), have seen a veritable tsunami of end-of-the-world fiction come raining down upon us.

I have to confess, Davis-Goff’s ‘Last Ones Left Alive’ gave a slight hint of its fundamental unoriginality to the subgenre, with its frankly uninspired title.  Indeed, from the get-go, if you’ve read even a handful of zombie apocalypse and/or post-apocalyptic tales, then you’re likely to have covered off every scenario, twist and predictable turn, presented in this tale.

That said, the Irish backdrop and heritage-inspired nods to old Irish mythology are a pleasant glimpse of something ever-so-slightly veering towards different.  But for the mainstay, we’re left trudging across tired and well-worn pathways, ticking off all the usual trials and tribulations as they rear their undead heads before our troop of troubled survivors.

I guess another aspect worth mentioning is the purposefully dominating female roles within the whole tale.  This did on the face of it, bring a pleasingly different angle.  However, instead of utilising the potential in this to any real effect, Davis-Goff merely puts women at the forefront, the sidelines and pretty much everywhere you look, without really bringing in any sense of why, until it feels like we’re simply churning through the lucid daydreams of a lesbian feminist with a perplexing tunnel vision.

Okay, so that last point might be a tad harsh. But then again, it really does feel like a novel which adamantly sticks to one half of the court, and with an agenda in mind or not, just avoids any explanation for doing so.

Honestly, there are aspects and times in the tale where it grabs you by your jowls and flings you into the thick of some high-adrenaline antics.  Surprisingly it’s with these action-rich sequences where the novel does best.  Those quieter, introspective, self-reflective moments when we’re supposed to really feel a bond with the characters forming – well, quite frankly, the altogether bland beige colouring applied whenever this happens, is more off-putting than it is character building.

I’m kind of guessing this review, like the novel itself, will get lost in a quagmire of mediocracy within minutes of its publication.  I’ll lose no sleep from that.  Same as when I read the book.

The novel runs for a total of 272 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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