A reality television show drops its contestants into an isolated, heavily wooded area, and after a few team challenges that pit them against each other, they're left on their own to survive with few supplies and little direction. The twist is contestants don't realize the show is set out to test them psychologically as well as physically, but that becomes clear after the first few challenges where contestants are made to believe that people have been killed or grievously injured. Everyone is at their worst, undergoing difficult challenges and living off the land in a rugged, harsh terrain. Soon it's easy to forget the cameras that are constantly trained on them. And then the unthinkable happens--the apocalypse. But contestant Zoo has been so psychologically strained and physically abused by the challenges that she can't accept that the camera crew is gone. She has an almost pathological need to believe that she's still being filmed because admitting there are no cameras means admitting that the increasing horrors she sees once she makes it out of the wilderness and into a town are real, not made for TV.
It's hard to put down this fast-paced, riveting look into the intricacies of reality television, and it becomes even more intriguing when the apocalypse starts. The characters are dehumanized by the show, referring to each other only by the nicknames the crew has given them. Zoo is a kind woman with a loving husband and a job educating people about wildlife, but after a few days on the show, hunger and adrenaline take over and she becomes brash and edgy. She loses more and more of herself as her ordeal continues, going deeper into denial as she encounters more and more evidence of what has happened. There are a few pulse-pounding action scenes, but psychological suspense is what makes this book so gripping. It serves as both a fascinating look at human nature as it plays out on reality television and also a survival manual for the end of the world. There are some mild descriptions of gore and violence, but compared to other apocalyptic books, The Last One is pretty tame.
Reviewed by ba, 08/16. Other reviews by ba.