The Last (Jameson)

The Last 
Hanna Jameson, 2019
Atria Books
352 pp.

A breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into nuclear war—along with twenty other survivors—who becomes obsessed with identifying a murderer in their midst after the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you.

But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications.

Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods.

Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Winchester, England, UK
Education—B.A., University of Sussex
Currently—lives in London, England

Hanna Jameson is a British author, perhaps best known for her London Underground mystery series. She was born in Winchester and earned her B.A. in American History at the University of Sussex.  Having traveled around the world—in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, it was her experiences in the U.S. that inspired her to pursue her Bachelor's in American History.

Jameson's debut novel, Something You Are, the first of her Underground books, was published in 2012 when she was still in college—she was 22 (and was only 17 when she started it). That debut was nominated for a CWA Dagger Award. Two other books followed in the series: Girl Seven (2014), shortlisted for Crime Thriller Awards Best New Writer Award, and the third book Road Kill (2017).

In 2019 Jameson published her first stand-alone novel, a dystopian thriller, The Last.

In addition to writing and traveling, Jameson has worked for Britain's Nation Health Service. She lives in London. (Adapted from various online sources.)

Book Reviews
[E]ngrossing postapocalyptic psychological thriller…. Jameson asks powerful questions about fear, community, and self-interest…. She succeeds in evoking a palpable, immanent sense of tension in a story that’s equal parts drama and locked-room murder mystery.
Publishers Weekly

Jameson's postapocalyptic tale presents some interesting moral/ethical quandaries, though a lack of specificity and detail occasionally undercut its authenticity. More likely to appeal to readers of the author's previous works of suspense. —Karin Thogersen, Huntley Area P.L., IL
Library Journal

This genre-bending novel neatly embraces dystopian fiction and murder mystery, with the Omega Man starkness of the former and the requisite twists and turns of the latter (Top Pick).

Jameson delivers an eerie and unsettling tale…. It makes for propulsive reading, but readers… will find themselves scratching their heads when all is finally revealed in a rather rushed finale. A thoughtful, page turning post-apocalyptic tale marred by a disjointed conclusion.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Consider the epigraph from Hans Keilson’s The Death of the Adversary. Why do you think the author chose this excerpt to open the novel?

2. Examine the structure and point of view of the novel. How would the story be different if Jon wasn’t the only narrator? Whose point of view would you want to explore? How does Jon’s occupation as a historian affect your reading of his chronicle? Do you think he’s an unreliable narrator? Why or why not?

3. On the rooftop with Jon, Dylan tells stories about L’Hotel Sixieme’s past (pp. 67–71). How does the author’s choice of setting enhance the stories?

4. Jon observes:

Everything that had happened before—our past lives—barely mattered. We lived day to day and could no longer remember all the people we hated, the things that upset us, made us angry online, Facebook statuses that made us roll our eyes, cute animal videos that made us cry, vendettas against journalists, news anchors, politicians, celebrities, relatives… all gone (p. 54).

How do you feel about Jon’s statement? Is the way he describes modern life too reductive, or is it an accurate portrait of what we value?

5. What role does technology play in the novel and in the characters’ survival?

6. How do the survivors react after discovering the girl’s body, and what do you think about their reactions? How do the stakes shift when a murder occurs at the end of the world?

7. Tomi is noticeably different from the other survivors. What pulls Jon toward her? At the same time, what about Tomi repels him? How do you feel about her?

8. The survivors share their personal histories during Jon’s investigation into the girl’s death: Adam talks about the ghost boy, and Nathan shares that his search for his stepfather led him to the hotel. Why do you think the author includes these stories?

9. Describe Jon’s first expedition outside the hotel. How do the events in the store affect him?

10. Tensions rise and blame gets lobbed around when the survivors discuss the recent election. Later, Tomi says to Jon, “The world didn’t go to shit because I voted for it. The world had long gone to shit; it took years. We all watched it happen” (p. 154). Do you think politics matter in their current situation? Whose side are you on? Discuss.

11. Discuss the group’s judgment of Nicholas van Schaik after his attempted assault on Mia (pp. 195–200). What were the arguments for and against his punishment, and do you believe the final choice fit the crime? Why or why not? Explain what you would do in this situation.

12. Early in the story, Jon tells Tania about his home life before he left for the conference. What do we learn about him? How does this revelation make you feel about Jon and about his actions so far?

13. What do Jon and Rob discover during their last trip outside? How do you feel about what they find?

14. Consider the ending. Why does the author end the novel in this way? Discuss what might happen to Jon, Tomi, and the other survivors.
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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