Tuesday, 31 July 2007
‘The Last Days’ – Scott Westerfeld (Atom Books)
I am officially the least musical person I know; in fact the only thing I can play is my stereo (Get it? No? Oh well…). So when I’m sent a book about five teenagers and their band I automatically find myself at a disadvantage right from the start. I’ve got no idea about chord changes, melody or drum rhythms and these all take up a large part of the book. It’s a good thing that the rest of the story is something that can really be enjoyed whether you’re into music or not…
Scott Westerfeld set the scene for all of this in ‘Parasite Positive’, a tale of New York teetering on the edge of a supernatural apocalypse. As the reader ventures into ‘The Last Days’ it becomes clear that the problem has only worsened and is looking like it could soon be a global issue. Pearl, Moz and Zahler don’t really care though; all they are worried about is making their new band a success. But with a vampire singer and a drummer suffering from strange hallucinations, our band find that their music may have more of a part to play than they thought…
I’ve already mentioned that the parts of the book concerning the music really didn’t do anything for me. I skimmed them but I can imagine certain teenagers (learning to play the guitar for the first time) are going to get a lot out of it. What I personally enjoyed was the sense of creeping fear and paranoia that Westerfeld created over the course of the book. He handled the breakdown of society so convincingly that I’m half wondering if he was a vampire, in a post-apocalyptic New York, in a previous life. The band member’s almost blithe dismissal of what was happening in the background (preferring instead to concentrate on the music) somehow threw events in New York into sharp relief, leaving the reader in no doubt of the significance of various portents.
We meet a couple of familiar faces from ‘Parasite Positive’ which really established some continuity but I felt that although it was a short book, some characters could have done with more development. I’m thinking of the drummer Alana Ray, a lot was made of her in the blurb but you don’t really get to find out much about her visions in the book itself.
The ending suggests that there won’t be any more of these books and I’m glad I got a chance to read them. ‘The Last Days’ is a fun read that is brimming with atmosphere, it’s just a shame that I’m not the sort of person to fully appreciate the ‘music bits’.
Seven out of Ten