Published by Razorbill (an imprint of Penguin)
Hardcover, 304 Pages
October 2006, ISBN: 0-59514-0624-X
Garbage is piling up, rats are seen in droves and cats stare with an odd gaze. This is daily life in New York City as Moz, Pearl, Zahaler, Alana Ray and Min come together in the hopes of forming the next big rock band. The band starts after something of a coincidence, Moz is walking down the street and a woman happens to throw her Stratocaster guitar out of her window. He rushes to catch the guitar and meets Pearl, who has as much of an eye for the classic guitar as does Moz. Moz then introduces Pearl to his best friend Zahler, who has been playing guitar with Moz for as long as either have played guitar. While The Last Days is a follow-up to Peeps, it can easily stand on its own.
Soon after Pearl becomes a member of the band, Moz notices "black water" erupting from a fire hydrant in the City streets for the first time. The sludgy material is just one indication that something strange and discomforting is boiling up from below the streets of New York City. The piling garbage and crumbling world in which they live seems almost matter-of-fact at the outset. Many of the portents of the coming doom are relayed through word-of-mouth; either from the parents or the kids peers. The music and the decaying constructs of civilization in New York City unite the band.
The backdrop was set up in Peeps and the strengths evident in Peeps are here, too. Westerfeld handles the first person narrative very well, allowing each character to tell their story and the greater story from their point of view. One thing all the characters realize is how strange their world is becoming. The world is heading towards something and they begin to question what sort of relevance their band can have in a world that is eroding away. Perhaps one of the band members; however, is a key to the mystery surrounding the gathering rats and piling garbage.
There are a lot of good things going on in this novel. Westerfeld uses a clever device in naming the chapters of the book. Also, each chapter is from the first person narrative POV of the members of the band and this provided a nice context for the characters and the story. I felt this made their shared experiences all the more believable and plausible. While this is indeed a sequel, I would almost call it a companion novel as The Last Days stands on its own very well. If anything, reading Peeps provides little “Easter Eggs” for readers to encounter in The Last Days.
Of course the darkness of this apocalypse might not be so strange to readers of Peeps. While in Peeps Westerfeld played around with the vampire formula, here these vampiric clues are only in the background. So much to say that The Last Days is almost an anti-vampire novel; the typical genre clichés are not as blatant and seem very naturalistic to the story. For example one character realizes that garlic helps to sooth the sickness they feel. Another character has trouble with daylight.
All told, Westerfeld continues to impress with this novel and tells a very engaging story in The Last Days. Both this and Peeps are entertaining and very highly recommended. Again, The Last Days stands very strongly on its own, but don’t let that stop you from picking up Peeps.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford
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