The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

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The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A wonderfully observed vignette of societal breakdown in this creepy vampire fantasy, with New York as a perfect backdrop. Readers of the first book in the series will see it slightly differently to the newbies. Recommended for fans of the genre.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: August 2007
Publisher: ATOM
ISBN: 978-1905654062

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Something is troubling New York, and it's not just the sanitation crisis. Deep below the ground, something rumbles ominously. People are getting sick. Their teeth are getting pointy. Things are becoming bitey. Pearl, Moz and Zahler aren't thinking too much about it though. They're not hungry for flesh; they're hungry for fame. But when they recruit Minerva as their singer and Alana Ray as their drummer, they are pulled right into the darkness. Their band won't protect them from the danger below; it will summon it.

Vampires. Who'd 'ave 'em? Plenty of people, it seems. Vampire books are everywhere. Instinctively, I disapprove of vampire teen fiction. The feminist inside me sees it as a watered down way of selling fetish porn to the underaged. I've no objection to fetishism and certainly no objection to writing about sex in books for teenagers - but I'm not so sure about glossed up marketing. Perhaps I'm just getting old and a little bit Mary Whitehouse in readiness for impending dotage. However, I can't level this criticism at The Last Days. It is dark and it is sexy and it is highly polished - but it pitches itself very well at the kind of sex and relationship preoccupations experienced by teenagers. It's not aspirational in any other sense than aspiring to what teenagers want - to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, to discover intimacy with them, and to fall in love for the first time.

I loved the depiction of New York - vivid, busy, with a life of its own. I loved the depiction of societal breakdown - it's happening throughout the book, but New Yorkers carry on regardless, oblivious to the implications of what's going on around them until it's all too late. People are sheep. And The Last Days makes this point subtly, but very well. It's told turn and turn about with each band member getting a shot at the narrative. I usually prefer to sit inside a single person's skin when I'm reading, but here, where the focal point is social disaster, it's interesting to see how the different characters perceive events.

Those, like me, who haven't read Westerfeld's first book in the series, Parasite Positive, will enjoy the mystery surrounding vampirism in the book - it's clearly a disease, but it's not fully explained for a long time. I found it added to the creepy suspense. Those who have read it will probably take something different entirely - but will be glad to know the main character from it gets a good cameo.

It's a stylish book with plenty of meat on its bones and comes recommended to teen fans of all things bitey. Music fans and impending doom fans will enjoy it too. That's all teenagers then, right?

My thanks to the good people at Atom for sending the book.

London is equally strongly evoked in Scared to Death by Alan Gibbons, a supernatural urban fantasy using a Jack the Ripper motif.

Booklists.jpg The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld is in the Top Ten Books For Children Who Love To Be Scared Silly.

Booklists.jpg The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld is in the Top Ten Books About Vampires.

Booklists.jpg The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld is in the Top Ten Books About America.

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Magda said:

Wicked Lovely is kind of along the same lines (and certainly aspirational in the same way).

But I THINK I'd rather have fairies. What is so sexy about vampires, anyway (apart from Bowie & denevue in The Hunger, of course, but it'd be hard to beat that!)?

Jill replied:

Well, fairies aren't fetish and vampires are, I guess. Hence my prissy reservations. Yes, The Hunger is VERY sexy!