‘The Last’ by Hanna Jameson is sort of like ‘The Walking Dead’ meets ‘Station Eleven’ – a bunch of people try to survive the end of the world in a hotel after nuclear warfare takes out most cities. They might just be the last few people still alive on earth, but they don’t want to risk finding out the actual truth.

The story is told through Jon’s perspective, an American professor Jon who was visiting Switzerland for a conference. Jon meticulously maintains a daily log of what is happening in the hotel and interviews the guests/staff who chose to stay back, instead of running away in  a panic in the hopes of finding their way back home. While the inhabitants of the hotel manage to live normally for a while, things get tensed when a minor girl’s body is found in a water tank. Not only is there a murderer amongst them, but they also must face the challenges of dwindling supplies and low morale.   

This novel was my companion in a 28-hour long train journey, and most of it passed by in a blink. I had to save the last 100 pages for the next day, so that I would have something to look forward to. Hanna Jameson cleverly weaves a tight psychological thriller set in a large old hotel in the wild. For most parts, Jon and inhabitants don’t ever go beyond the premises of the secluded hotel, which limits the scope of the story but at the same time offers a razor-sharp focus on a few characters without every getting confusing for the reader. Due to the diary-style narration, the descriptions are concise, vivid enough for the readers to be transported to Jon’s worldview.

The author slowly introduces a few principal characters in the tale, making the reader postulate their own theories as to who the killer might be. ‘The Last’ isn’t exactly a nail-biting whodunnit, especially because the characters have more pressing things to worry about than a dead girl whose identity is a question mark. Instead, like most intriguing post-apocalyptic novels, Hanna Jameson explores the fragility of social order and human morals in the face of impeding death. I really liked how all the characters are quite grey, even though Jon is probably the most ‘goody two shoes’ of them all.  

Geopolitics, religion, drugs, gender roles, superstitions, mental health…. Hanna Jameson tries to touch upon many themes through the book, but she portrays friendship and paranoia the best. It’s a 4 on 5 from me.