The Last Human – Zack Jordan

Sarya is the last human, as far as she knows. Being in Corona-isolation makes us all live that feeling to an extent at the moment. It was interesting, celebrating my birthday in isolation with my flatmate today, although luckily modern technology helps us keep up communication lines. It is a very different situation, but reading The Last Human has made me think a lot about isolation and identity, and my brain has forged a connection between the two that now seems unbreakable. I really hope that my experience of self-isolation and the associated brainfog has not affected my perception of the book too much!

I am very grateful to Kate Keehan and Hodder & Stoughton for the advance copy of The Last Human by Zack Jordan in exchange for this honest review.

RELEASE DATE: 24/03/20

STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

SYNOPSIS: Sarya is the galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human.
But most days, she doesn’t feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy. No, most days, she’s got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn’t casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.
And most days, she can almost accept that she’ll never know the truth about why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist, or whether she really is – impossibly – the lone survivors of a species destroyed a millennium ago. That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter leaves her life and her perspective shattered.
Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship, Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth. Humanity’s death and her own existence might simply be two moves in a demented cosmic game, one that might offer the thing she wants most in the universe – a second chance for herself, and one for humanity. (from Hodder & Stoughton)

OPINIONS: Out tomorrow, The Last Human starts with an intriguing concept. Sarya, the last human, has been raised by a Widow. A creature I imagine to look sort of like a massive spider, with blades in place of legs. Their society is based on survival of the fittest, a lack of feelings and sentimentality, and still, one of their most ruthless widows adopted Sarya as her Daughter. Sadly, this promising set-up is soon left behind for a romp through space with little substance for the middle parts of the book. While the ending picks up again, I struggled with motivation and focus to finish the story after the focus left the Widow storyline.

I hate not loving a book I was really excited about initially. So I tried taking a break for a few days, reading small chunks, but the rest of the book sadly did not click with me. If it had been a book about Sarya the Daughter and Shenya the Mother, I would have devoured it completely. But like this, it left me hanging. The characters were reminiscent of NPCs that you meet in order to get one piece of information, hanging in space without story or personality, and many of them left lose story threads hanging – The Last Human is, as far as I know, a standalone novel.

As someone who connects to story through characters, this left me detached from the plot and its philosophical considerations. The novel’s writing is generally well-executed, although clunky at times, and could have benefited from losing some of its overwrought metaphor – there were a few instances where the author used common phrases referring to human body parts and ‘adapted’ them to Widow use, making them sound cringe-worthy rather than funny (such as “on the other blade”), pulling the reader out of the flow. Something I really liked though were the little info inserts in between all the chapters!

A tightening of plot, characters, and language down to a smooth red thread with fewer frayed ends would have improved the novel immensely. But I do encourage you to have a read for yourself! Add it on Goodreads here, and order it from Hive here or Waterstones here, or of course your indie of choice.

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