Every year at the end of May all around the world people get together to celebrate Last Day, a tradition dating back centuries. Last Day is the possibility of the end of the world, and rebirth if the world is still there in the morning (which it is every year). The book starts abruptly on May 27th of a year that cannot be too far away from where we are now, with the introduction of several characters in the middle of their day. Some of these characters are linked, others aren’t, or only by the fact that they are human. Sarah is a teenager, intent on finding the man she fell in love with on Last Day the year before, Kurt is that man, a tattoo artist and an alcoholic; Karen is a woman with a traumatic past and mental health issues, Bear is an astronaut hovering around earth in a space station with a Russian astronaut and a Japanese artist as companions.
This book had everything for me to like (end of days style apocalypse, weird characters who most people won’t like), and for me not to like (predictable, rushed, lacking in depth). It’s compulsively readable, and very well written, and the first half kept me engrossed in the plot. And then for some reason I lost interest, and started to plough through the pages to make sure my ending predictions were going to come true. Suddenly a whole slew of new characters were introduced, and the development of the other characters just collapses, and you start to wonder what on earth happened to the storyline. Did the author get bored and feel like she had to rush to fill 100 more pages? I have no idea, but I was a bit disappointed.
This is not dystopia, or a post-apocalyptic story, more an overview on humanity on the verge of something that they have already predicted, and are compulsively hurling themselves towards. It’s dire and pretty hopeless (which I enjoyed), and wouldn’t have minded the predictability of the ending so much if there had been more focus on the characters introduced in the first half during the second half of the book. I wanted more of Karen, of Kurt, of Sarah, of Bear, and less of the random pictures of random people that appeared out of nowhere nearer the end of the book.
I didn’t dislike the book, there were actually quite a few things I enjoyed, but I wish the author had spent more time developing it into something longer and less rushed. The author does mention having written the story in a state of postpartum fugue in the Acknowledgments section, something that I have been known to do and understand completely, and it does account for the “rushed” and somewhat unfinished feeling.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!