Rob Ewing’s The Last of Us is an interesting take on the apocalyptic genre, populated almost entirely by children. This in and of itself gives the novel a fresh and unique feel, while adding an additional element of peril – these children would barely be equipped to take care of themselves under the best of circumstances, let alone after a mysterious plague has wiped out their island’s adult population.
Our main character is Rona, eight years old and beset by all a child’s usual fears, foibles and rivalries, amplified by the end of the world. It took me a while to settle into Rona’s patterns of speech and thought, but Ewing does an admirable job of capturing the essence of a child of her age – not always likeable or ‘good’, but relatable, taking actions that make sense in the moment. (One minor peeve is the way Rona and friends will occasionally slip into Gaelic, without English translation. It’s not bothersome enough to majorly detract from the story, though.)
There’s a Lord of the Flies element as the plot unravels and rivalries intensify between the children, but there’s also an unexpected tenderness as they try to care for one another regardless of simmering enmities. One central plot strand follows the childrens’ hunt for insulin when six-year-old diabetic Alex’s supply runs out.
The Last of Us isn’t a long book, but it is a page turner. I read it over a couple of days, picking it up whenever a spare moment arose, needing to know how it all shook out. Ewing doesn’t provide sugar-coated happily-ever-afters, but he grants readers a fraught and realistic look of children trying to survive in a devastated world
[Read from 13-14 September 2016]