‘The Last Gasp’ – Book/Event Review

Before I launch into this review I want to make a quick apology about my lack of posts recently. I’ve been (thankfully) finishing my dissertation and getting it all handed in. For those of you that don’t know I’m a creative writing student and I actually submitted an SF story for my dissertation project and it was so much fun to write, and the book I’m about to review is something I picked up through my dissertation research.

Okay so now the admin’s out the way, onto the book! I recently read The Last Gasp by Trevor Hoyle, an SF eco-disaster in which the oxygen of the planet slowly depletes due to pollution and industrialisation. It was a very interesting read, but, sadly, not a very gripping read in terms of style. The actual text was a little heavy on the science for my tastes, I much prefer character driven books, but that’s my own personal quirk, and if you love science then you will love this book.

img_1229The story follows marine biologist Gavin Chase as he discovers the slow death of phytoplankton – the plant responsible for almost 80% of the planet’s oxygen. The text jumps through years quite quickly, starting in the 1990’s going all the way to the 2200’s but unfortunately each section seemed to end and jump just as it got interesting? I wanted to see the collapse of civilisation, the desperate evacuation of over polluted cities, the general self-destruction of man. Maybe I’m a little dark in that sense, but that’s what I find interesting in SF, I like seeing the worst possible outcome, but every time he got to those interesting parts Hoyle jumped fifteen years into the future after all the drama had settled down. As well as this he seemed to focus mostly on the politics of the situation, it was full of UN meetings, government funded operations, and Cold War references, when really I wanted to see some people choke on their aspirations (I might actually be as sadistic as Darth Vader, who knows). In general this was quite disappointing, it seemed to me like Hoyle simply lacked the imagination to write what could have been an exciting novel. That might be a little harsh of me but I got into SF because the thought of being attacked by a triffid made my heart race, this book was about as exciting as nipping out to buy milk, which is probably why it took me a month to read.

That being said I do think the actual premise of the book was great. Though the story itself was not that impressive, the general message of the text was an interesting one. Hoyle essentially tries to get out a terrifying message: we’re killing the planet and we need to stop. A message that I, personally, find very relevant and terrifying, hence why most of my pictures of it have alcohol in, it’s difficult to face up to without a drink! Even though this book was alright, if a bit boring, I still decided to attend Hoyle’s York Literature Festival event, and hear him talk about the book.

img_1295About eight people attended this event and I was the youngest person there, but I’ve been the youngest person at many events I’ve attended since I was old enough to attend events without my mom having to take me, as I’m probably a secret grandma. The event was a the typical, casual talk about the book and the process and the themes, but what really blew me away was something I hadn’t known before entering the event; The Last Gasp has been republished! I had read the much older version but a couple years ago it was rewritten to be up to date (not realising what major events would take place shortly after). Now this rattled me a little and I couldn’t figure out why until I mused upon it a little more later on. If a book is good, it doesn’t need to be rewritten! It should stand the test of time, and if it doesn’t maybe just write a whole new one! As well as getting my book signed and finding out exactly what Hoyle would have voted in the American election, he also told a great little story about the time he met Philip K Dick, which was, sadly, the highlight of the show.

 

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4 thoughts on “‘The Last Gasp’ – Book/Event Review

  1. I’ve heard of ‘The Last Gasp,’ but I’ve never read it. (To be honest, I’m pretty sparing these days on my SciFi fiction readings anyway.) The overall problem I tend to have with SciFi books (in general) is that (like you pointed out) it’s increasingly difficult to find one that’s character driven (except for certain varieties and sub-genres). Also, I’ve found that I tend to enjoy older SciFi wherein there’s a bit more sense of whimsy (sp?) and the fantastical; so much of contemporary stuff that I’ve read does feel kinda/sorta high and dry technical stuff.

    Incidentally, have you read Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z’? Some of what you wrote above — the desire to kinda/sorta see the world falling apart and society collapsing — is really front and center there in a much more creative and narrative way. Just curious …

    Great piece, and I shared via SciFiHistory.Net as well.

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    • I know just what you mean about the whimsy of older sf, they used to have a much happier outlook on the future. Though I like the bleakness of more recent stuff I just like my character driven stuff! I have watched the film of World War Z but not read it – I have a complicated love/hate relationship with zombies! I might give it a go though, might take me a while to read out of fear. Thanks for the share!!

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      • Oh, sweetheart, READ it. The movie is crap by comparison. I don’t think it’ll frighten you as much as you might be anticipating: I think that — as one writer to another — it’s definintely told in a way that draws you into the story. There’s no single point-of-view; it’s basically a narration by hundreds of people telling their stories of how the zombie apocalypse started, continued, and kinda/sorta ended. I think you’ll enjoy.

        I don’t have any issues with “bleakness,” per se: I just want it either done right or done differently than what I’ve seen/read before.

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