Monday, 2 June 2008

Review: The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

'The Last Days' is a follow up to Westerfeld's earlier book 'Peeps', which posits vampirism as an infection with an insidious parasite that makes victims stronger, gives them excellent night vision and smell, an almost debilitating libido, but also an anathema to everything they once loved. 'The Last Days' is very different to 'Peeps', however. While Peeps was really about exploring the idea of parasitism (with real life scientific excerpts in between chapters), 'The Last Days' is really about music and the formation of a band. A band that just happens to form at the same time as the apocalypse that was looming in the final chapters of 'Peeps'.

Moz and Zahler have been jamming for 6 years, but their rock star dreams only start to become real when Moz meets Pearl while rescuing a 1975 Strat with gold pickups (that's a guitar, dudes) that some Peep-infected woman is throwing out her window (the anathema, dude). Pearl is a music whiz and highly organised. She rejigs Moz and Zahler's winding rifs and, after recruiting drummer Alana Ray and singer Minerva, the band is on it's way to fame. But what if the world ends before they can make it big???

I'd heard that 'The Last Days' wasn't as good as 'Peeps'. However, I think I actually enjoyed 'The Last Days' more than 'Peeps', which is saying something because I did really like Peeps. Perhaps it was that I was expecting it to be bad and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't. However, I also really liked the fact that, in this apocalyptic book, the main characters are only peripherally aware of what is going on. (Of course, once a giant worm thing erupts in their first gig, it becomes hard to ignore). Normality has a strong pull and it was great to see an apocalypse written about this way.

While the main characters from Peeps do make an entrance in the book, the story is told by Moz, Pearl. Zahler Minerva and Alana Ray in alternating chapters. I really enjoyed the changing point of views, and oddly enough, I found the book to be a bit 'younger' than 'Peeps'. The characters are younger (though only marginally - by a couple of years) and there's less of an emphasis on the sexual transmission of the parasites. Perhaps the band is a bit more naive, a bit less serious, as relfected by their relative lack of interest in the apocalypse.

Once again, Westerfeld has shown and understanding of the young people's language, a feat he pulled off so excellently the 'Uglies trilogy'. In this case, random words had a random 'f' in front of them: fool, fexcellent - totally fawesome! Finally I *loved* the fact that each chapter is named after a real band. I didn't notice until I got to Westerfeld's explanation at the end, but it was cool to look through and see who I could identify after the fact.

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