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The last day

THE LAST DAY AND THE FIRST by Tim Lebbon

PS Publishing, HC, £15.00

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

The end of the world as we know it has been hypothesised in many ways, drowning, burning, consumed by war or alien invasion, hammered by asteroids, disease or a poisoned atmosphere. Civilisation dies due to human agency or external factors. The methods are various and increasingly inventive. Some extrapolate from present trends, others appear out of the blue. The result is the same – no more civilisation, no more humans, no more planet. Tim Lebbon’s novella The Last Day and the First is a poignant addition.

            The story is told by Rose. She is the last woman alive, and she is writing her story as a final act, even though she knows it will never be read by anyone else. It is never clear why civilisation has collapsed, partly because she doesn’t know. The last groups of humans lived in isolated villages. They rarely visited each other because of the danger. The roads and dead cities are haunted by scorers. Whether these are mutated humans, machines, or a hybrid of the two is not clear. The essential thing about them is that they are killers, perhaps feral war machines. They only move on tarmacked surfaces. It makes crossing roads hazardous.

            Rose knows that at a hundred and three, her life is nearing its end. Her story is one of hope, not just for humankind but for the planet. Ten years before the end, Rose and two others had found a strange growth in the grassland near a pond. Over time, it grew. Rose called it a Bloom, though it didn’t seem to be a plant. Then it disappeared, and they found it in the water, not drowning but changing into a strange life form. Over time, more of the blooms appeared, though they didn’t react with the remaining people.

            This is a delightful story, sad and hopeful at the same time.

            The production of this book is worth commenting on. It is a very high-quality hardback with a beautiful cover by Tomislav Tikulin. Despite the relatively high price for such a slim book, it would grace any bookshelf.

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