Six Impossible Things

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The Last Days

DaysThe Last Days by Scott Westerfeld


I like Westerfeld’s writing style.  Sometimes, it seems like what he’s writing is banal, and even a little too detailed in the minutiae, but it’s always relevant.  There’s something about the pace, I suppose, that throws me off, but there’s never a question in my mind if I’m going to finish reading the book, or that I’m going to enjoy it.

The Last Days is the sequel to Peeps, a novel that I thought stood quite well on its own.  I was hesitant to pick it up, but really, it’s Scott Westerfeld.  I’m going to read it.  It picks up more or less where Peeps left off, though not with the same characters.  This time, the author focuses on an odd commingling of friends, which includes a musical genius, two guitarists who have been friends for ages, an obsessive-compulsive drummer of buckets, and a singer who’s a vampire.  He uses the group to bring focus to the crumbling of society, as the vampire virus spreads through New York.  The downfall is seen through their eyes.

Which brings to the point Westerfeld’s skill at characterization.  The novel is narrated in the first person, but it’s narrated by all five of the members of the band.  I didn’t realize this until the second chapter, but Westerfeld notes each chapter with the person who is speaking, but really, it’s not necessary.  He gives enough clues in his narrative for you to be able to hone in on who’s speaking, but aside from that, each character has his or her own distinctive voice.  The last time I saw a multiple first-person narrative that worked this well was in Sturgeon’s Godbody.  That says a lot for Westerfeld and his talents.

Through the first half of the novel, I wondered why the author chose to make this a sequel, as opposed to a stand-alone novel.  The focus was so much on the band members and their quest to secure a record deal, that I wondered why the author didn’t choose some other method for the decline of society.  It served as a backdrop for the musicians’ desperation, but it also poignantly illustrated how they pursued their dreams, despite the seeming futility of it all.  Once things became clearer, though, it tied in nicely with what was established in Peeps.  Well … almost.

The ending is really hokey.  Sorry, Scott, but it’s true.  I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, because I think the story is well told, and raises some good points, but the way that everything comes together in the end smacked like an odd combination of The Stand and Tremors.  I hesitate to say that it “jumped the shark,” but it at least jumped the minnows.  The ambiguous ending of Peeps was appropriate, and the conclusive ending of The Last Days was, as well, but it just didn’t gel with me.  Maybe it’s more appropriate for a younger crowd, as the book is marketed, but it seemed to fail with me.

In a way, this a pseudo-sequel to Peeps, in much the same way that Small Steps was a pseudo-sequel to Holes.  I think there were more points connecting Peeps to The Last Days, but the overall feel was that it was a different story, attached to the same universe.  This isn’t a bad thing, by any means, but it just makes me wonder what drives authors to connect their works when the stories are disparate.

Regardless, I think this is a book worth reading.  It could stand alone as its own book, but there are some characters that appear in both novels, so it’s probably best to start with Peeps.  I think it’s the superior book of the two, but both books together make a nice overall story.


September 26, 2007 Posted by | Reviews, YA Fiction | Leave a comment