Friday, July 30, 2010

Last Light - Alex Scarrow

Having read Alex Scarrow's teen/YA offering Time Riders in June ( review here ) I was sufficiently impressed by his plotting to sample one of his adult thrillers. Last Light looks at what would happen if the worlds supply of oil were to be cut off, how would governments and individuals cope?

The Sutherlands are a family in crisis. Dad Andy is an oil engineer in Iraq, he has bored his friends and family with his predictions of what would happen when the oil runs out - to the point where his wife Jennifer is in Manchester for a job interview, putting the final pieces in place to move out of the family home and out of Andy's life.
Daughter Leona is at university in Norwich and son Jacob is at his boarding school in London. It is through the lens of this family and their efforts to be reunited after a religious war kicks off in the middle east (helped along by a secret cabal) that Scarrow explores the, frankly scary, likely response to an oil crisis.

As the effects of the ash cloud earlier this year showed, we are all interconnected. Take away one element of this interconnectedness, in that case air travel, and all sorts of problems occur from interrupted holiday plans to shortages of certain types of foods. But what would happen if multiple connections fail? Without oil there is no means of energy production, no way to clean and pump water and no way of moving food from A to B. What would you do if no water came out of the tap and the only food you had was what happened to be in your fridge and cupboard the day the oil stopped?

As Andy struggles to get home from Iraq and Jennifer is holed up at a motorway service station, Scarrow describes a world in chaos in which only the fittest and the most ruthless survive. The most memorable scenes in the book are being played out in the residential streets of Shepherds Bush, London where Leona and Daniel have managed to make it back to the family home. Gangs of teenagers terrorise the homeowners as law and order breaks down and people begin to realise that no one is coming to fix the problem and it's every man for himself. Food and water become worth dying for.

It can be argued that Scarrow has over egged the pudding with the inclusion of a secret cabal who are masterminding things however this does not detract from a strong thriller that would be perfect for a summer read on holiday. But beware, this is a book that you will not be able to toss aside when you have finished and move on to the next one. If on holiday you will be itching to get back home and to an Internet connection to research the phenomenon known as Peak Oil, you will want to look through your cupboards to asses how much tinned and dry food you have, you will want to find out where your nearest water source is and how clean it is and you will want to look in your tool shed to find out just how many tools you have that don't rely on electricity to work and whether - in an emergency - they will be enough to help you survive the oil crash.

This is exactly the wake up call that society needs, forget global warming - will you survive Last Light?

Not an official book trailer but one that illustrates exactly what Last Light is about here

After Light the sequel to Last Light is now available and deals with the world 10 years after the crisis. How have the Sutherlands and society fared?


1 comment:

  1. Carole thanks for giving Last Light a mention on your blog. Peak Oil is the 'elephant in the room' issue for the twenty-first century. I'm frankly stunned at how few people have even heard of 'peak oil', let alone really thought about what it means! know...many thanks for making that point in your review, and for flagging the term. Hopefully some of your readers will now go and google it and find out for the selves.

    All the best

    Alex Scarrow