“Last Ones Left Alive” takes us far away and brings us straight home in the same moment, asking the dreaded question: if it all ended in this moment what will be the legacy of the world we are creating right now?
Sarah Davis-Goff is co-founder of Ireland's Tramp Press, quickly becoming one of the most well respected independent publishing house on the island, the imprint has gone from strength to strength and has certainly made a fan of me as well as many others in the bookselling trade.
Last Ones Left Alive, is Davis-Goff's début novel. In it she tells the story Orpen, newly orphaned and nearly alone she is trekking across wastlandic Ireland, in an unspecified time in our future. A virus has stripped the world of most of humanity devolving us into beast like “Skrakes” in what is the first of a number of highly insightful and oddly nostalgic homages to Ireland’s mythology and current culture.
The book begins with mysteries abound, and a dual-narrative serves to fill in some of the blanks while we follow Orpen from Ireland's western coast towards the East and the sanctuary of Phoenix City. A name many readers will throw heavy assumptions into from its first mention. I would not hesitate to call it a literary, action-adventure, horror. Where Orpen's badass nature, complex and often stark prose, and (for all intensive purposes) zombies, meld brilliantly into a gripping narrative with enough pace and intrigue to keep you turning the page.
Orpen's journey takes us through locations that many of us know, and is abound with cultural references that will make you chuckle. Particularly it is telling how none of the characters can decipher the strange writing underneath the English words on road signs. But, Orpen rarely dwells on her landscape, bar her constant vigilance for attack, which leaves the readers at one with her own anxiety. Playing both with and against expectations, the feeling of impending doom is sown through masterfully to keep you hopeful and cynical from breath to breath.
But despite the horror of seeing the desolation of a land I actually call home—a sensation which the prevalently foreign location of previous ventures into this genre could not induce—the most disconcerting thought I had throughout the book was the mirror it held up to the present day. If the world ended tomorrow, and few humans survive, what pieces of our current culture and systems would be passed on to those left behind? What would a new society built from the mistakes of this one resemble? Davis-Goff takes some of the worst of us; and much can be gleaned from how her fictional society takes both the bodies and the rightful anger of its women, and uses them against them. And yet, all the people we encounter throughout the novel, bar one poignant exception, show us all the warmth and strength that is the best humans have in us.
Exciting and engaging, with a fully authentic world, Last Ones Left Alive rewards the reader and is exactly the début we looked forward to from the author.