‘Last Light’ by Alex Scarrow is a fictional, apocalyptic thriller that exposes the fragility of society and civilization in early 21st Century England. An England that houses millions of people into packed urban areas, where they are utterly reliant upon the importation of food, and where supermarkets use the ‘just-in-time’ delivery system that saves on shop floor space and expensive warehousing. The England that came close to complete chaos during the limited tanker drivers’ strike of 2001, when Tony Blair’s government described the country as ‘nine meals from anarchy’. Little has changed since that time, with The Independent recently reporting that England’s food growing, importation and delivery system remains as fragile as ever.
In ‘Last Light’ explosions, that appear at first to be unrelated acts of terrorism, cripple the world’s oil supply and chaos ensues. Our Kiwi oil engineer hero is trapped in Iraq with a platoon of British soldiers, as they fight to get out of a country in meltdown. His wife is stuck in Manchester, desperately trying to reach their children in London, as the government shuts down the transportation network. Meanwhile his children are holed up at a friend’s house in London, without power and with insufficient food and fresh water, whilst gangs loot, rape and murder in the streets outside.
Our hero begins to realise that everything is connected. That the situation befalling the world is directly related to a Peak Oil report he compiled for some shadowy characters a decade ago. He realises that his family is now in danger.
. . . and that’s all I’m giving away. Buy it and read it yourself. I found it well written, and rather gripping. The depiction of England as only a few power cuts or failed fuel and food deliveries away from disintegration is very chilling.
I only have one gripe with the novel, and that is the bad guys behind it all. I think the novel would have worked better without them. That said, I still loved this book.
Here’s a short quote from the book:
“As they entered the tinned goods aisle, Leona was aware that it was noticeably busier than the other areas in the supermarket they had walked through; half-a-dozen shoppers, like herself, warily eyeing each other up, whilst filling their trolleys with canned goods. As she, Dan and Jacob wheeled their trolleys down towards them, there was a moment of shared communication, eyes meeting, and barely perceptible nods of acknowledgement.
They’re here for the same reason.
Somehow the thought that there were other people out there who had begun to see beyond the news soundbites to something more disturbing, made the bizarre situation she was in right now feel that much more real.
Leona could see that these few people alone had already cleared the shelves of several ranges of product in this aisle.
My God. There’s only six of them at it, and already the shelves in this aisle are beginning to empty.
She shuddered at the thought of what it was going to be like in this supermarket, and every other one around the country, when the penny finally dropped for everyone else.”
[End of quote.]
In my own work I occasionally meet celebrities. A fortnight ago I met Simon Scarrow, brother of Alex and himself an author too. He came across as a very nice chap. I mentioned ‘Last Light’ and he said he had read his brother’s book and enjoyed it. He immediately added that it had made him view the world a little differently. “It seems a little more fragile” he said “and I must admit I store a little more food since reading it.”
I did exchange a few messages with Alex Scarrow, through Facebook, after reading his book. He said he was happy with how the book was received and was planning the sequel (which became ‘After Light’). At the time, I asked him about food storage and prepping. I wondered, having written the book, whether it had changed his own view of the world. He confessed that researching and writing the book had caused him concern, and that he had considered prepping. However, he had come to the realisation that, if the shit really did hit the fan, any ‘punk with a gun’, as he termed it, could take his store.
Perhaps that’s the single major difference between England and much of the world. Gun ownership is relatively low, and it’s difficulty for most people to obtain a firearm legally. But we do share a common fear with the rest of the world – no matter what weapons we have, no matter how well prepared we are, a better armed and experienced individual or group can take it all away from us.
‘Last Light’ by Alex Scarrow – I very highly recommend it.