Last Ones Left Alive is unlike any book I have EVER read. It’s a dystopian novel but it’s set in a post-apocalyptic Ireland! Now as many of you are already aware I am Irish and to see familiar place names mentioned in the same breath as flesh devouring zombies was a complete freak out. Sarah Davis-Goff has shaken me to to the core and led to one very sleepless night as my dreams were haunted with some variant of these ghoulish creatures.
Orpen is a teenager when she finally gets to step off the island that has been her home forever. Slanbeg is a desolate location off the west coast of Ireland. Surrounded by the sea there is only one way on and one way off, by boat. Orpen lives there with her mother and another lady, Maeve. From an early age, Orpen has wanted to explore and see beyond the confines of the island but her mother and Maeve were adamant that only they would travel to the mainland when necessary. But as the years pass, the seemingly idyllic lifestyle of her early years are quickly replaced by an intense training regime set in place by her two minders. Orpen is in awe when she watches her mother and Maeve practice their weapon skills. These women have been trained and have witnessed something destructive but now they know that Orpen can not be kept on the island forever, so they need to share their knowledge with her.
Ireland is now a desolate place, ravaged by a frightening and grisly foe, the skrake. These demonic creatures infect a human with a poisonous bite, gradually transforming that person into one of their own.
‘A type of spiderweb-like fungus or growth has spread around the worst affected parts of the body: the head, especially the mouth and eyes, and underarms, the groin…..The hair clings in clumps to the scalp but the skrake’s head is just a mess of rot and teeth. The mouth hangs open, the jaw nearly gone, and from it protrudes the wet-looking, slug-like growth, the teeth around it.’
Orpen has only ever heard stories of these menacing beasts but when Maeve is bitten, Orpen has to face her greatest fear and look for help on the mainland. With only a wheelbarrow to carry Maeve and her trusty dog, Orpen is determined to save Maeve before the skrake take her over.
But when Orpen travels the roads of Ireland, she discovers that the devastation of the country is vast and macabre. Orpen witnesses corpses huddled together, towns abandoned but worse she hears the shuffle of the skrake and knows that she must use all her strength to survive.
Last Ones Left Alive is a frightening depiction of a dystopian world left ravaged and abandoned by all who once lived there. The reviews are flying in for this one with Patrick Gale saying ‘I will be cursing Last Ones Left Alive for seriously troubling dreams for weeks to come.‘ Joseph O’ Connor said ‘it gripped me, and since the last page I’ve been haunted‘
It did leave me a little perplexed toward the end but Orpen inhabits a post-apocalyptic world so it was never going to have a closed book finish. The reader is left assaulted and disturbed by the vivid imagery within the pages. Language is sparingly used, with the descriptive prose building the scenes for you. I do feel there could be a book two in this series as the ending definitely lends itself to it.
Last Ones Left Alive is a bleak and brutal read but it is also a story of courage and strength against enormous adversity. I do not tend to read dystopian novels, but I can tell you that this book is recommended to ‘readers of dystopian literary fiction such as STATION 11 or THE END WE START FROM.’
Just published with Tinder Press, Last Ones Left Alive is a chilling and sinister debut, with a palpable tension on every single page.
(c) Swirl and Thread
Order your copy online here.