It will soon be Halloween - a time to enjoy some spooky stories - and goodness do I have one for you this week.
"Last One Left Alive" by Sarah Davis-Goff is an after-the apocalypse-tale to beat them all, narrated by a spirited 15-year-old girl named Orpen (who has one of the most gripping and fully realized narrative voice that I've encountered in print this year).
Orpen lives on a small island off the coast of Ireland with her Mam and Man's partner Maeve. Isolated from the mainland, she spends her days training to fight an enemy she has never laid her eyes on. Beware tall buildings, she is counseled, and always carry your knives just in case.
To survive means to be ever vigilant. You can't ever let your guard down because you never know when the hour or the assailant will come. Even way out here on Slanbeg island, far from the mainland and all the flesh-eating monsters that live there, who are known as the skrake.
But when things change and Mam passes, Orpen and Maeve have no choice but to leave the island in search of a new beginning, which means Orpen pushing her older companion in a wheelbarrow across the dangerous country that she has never set foot in before, in the hope of meeting the legendary all-female fighting force known as the banshees.
Walking the open road makes her a target for many, and soon we realize there may be other unnamed and unknown dangers than the skrake waiting out there among the abandoned buildings and unending forests.
Not that skrakes are exactly a pushover. They're people, or at least they were people until they got bitten and they died, only to instantly reanimate as wicked fast flesh-eating monsters who can chase you and run unbelievably fast as they do it.
The women in the story are never safe in other words, which begins to comment on how women actually feel in most countries, where their safety can rise and fall by zip code, bank balance, opportunity, and even street.
It's refreshing that real-life threats and supernatural ones can comment on each other this efficiently, and "Last Ones Left Alive" is at its strongest when it marries the real dangers of this world with the world of zombies.
You will not be able to put it down, it's the most heart-pounding story, told with a lighthouse intelligence and a quietly feminist eye that misses nothing. Expect to be gripped from the first to the last page. This is the kind of thriller that we want to read.
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