3 out of 4 stars
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“What is good, but a lighter shade of darkness?”–Georg Ebers; Serapis
2065–America is in chaos. Over a span of decades, a series of genetically engineered viruses have devastated the nation. None of them killed, not technically. Released by a sadistic scientist intent, in his own words, on “F***ing the world”, Hephaestus I stole the fertility of millions, male and female alike. As the scientist neared death, he extracted a promise from his apprentice, Harold Del Meethia, to hasten the destruction of the world. Thus, despite his own misgivings, Harold created Hephaestus II. This virus deformed and twisted the body while instilling an insatiable need to infect others. Then came the worst: Antilife. Hephaestus II had mutated, stripping those affected of their very humanity and creating a new race conceived and suckled on hatred of mankind’s very existence.
2037–With an aging workforce and few children being born, there were no longer enough people to fill available jobs. Unmanned, essential services shut down and medical personnel fled to a facility in Baltimore, the last bastion of medical science in the nation. Families were forced from their homes into “complexes” which were easier for cities to maintain and police. Housing deteriorated, food became scarce and clean water was a thing of the past. With it ever more difficult to secure even the basic necessities, a survival of the fittest mentality arose. With it came riots and rebellion.
2066–In a bid to curtail further violence, what remained of the government instituted the Founding. Seven cities across America were chosen. All citizens were required to choose and relocate to one of these cities. Gradually, isolated as they were from one another, the cities withdrew into themselves becoming, essentially, their own nations. Years later the Host of Chicago silently watches, pleased by the fragmentation he sees. Within his veins flows the ability to control the beasts of the Antilife and in his ever-manipulative hands lies the ability to motivate the masses to destruction. What will be the fate of humanity? Matthew Tysz takes us on a journey through the darkest depths of the human soul on a quest to discover the unlikeliest of saviors.
The Last City of America by Matthew Tysz is a gripping post-apocalyptic novel with a stunningly intricate plot. It is a terrifying and psychologically twisted peek into a possible future. Though its themes are not unique, the author pushes the limits of the genre to create a tale which defies the norms of heroes vs. villains and good vs. evil. It will make you consider the darkness within us and how close to the surface it resides. The novel is home to several larger themes entangled with more personal perspectives from the myriad cast of characters. Equally important are the personal goals of the characters themselves, their desires, and the paths they choose to achieve them. Politics, subterfuge, insanity, betrayal, vengeance, and redemption are vital plot elements. Trigger warning: murder, mutilation, rape, and cannibalism are themes that also occur.
The background of each major player in this novel is revealed to the reader. Some histories are shockingly dark and have driven the character to the edge of insanity. Others have themselves performed detestable crimes against humanity, precariously balancing between good and evil until you are uncertain on which side they will fall. With some characters you will empathize, others you will despise, and for still others, you will pray for either their redemption or their demise. Nothing in this book is purely black and white and all is never as it seems. Within its pages, Tysz skillfully explores the darkest side of human nature in a tale told in shades of gray. The novel has the potential to be a brilliant and enthralling story.
However, there are a few problems. For instance, there are a stunning and often confusing number of side characters in the novel who appear and are abandoned, their storyline left hanging. There are numerous minor spelling and grammatical errors present. For instance, coming across a “bear” which should be “bare” (pun intended) breaks immersion. Unfortunately, that was not my main problem with the novel. Tysz has the disturbing penchant for sexualizing his female characters. With some side characters, there is no depth whatsoever. Their primary description is their sensuality. Even the main female characters are described in this way. One primary character, Angela, is described as having an ample bosom. In every encounter, the other person ends up looking at her chest and it is re-emphasized that she is well-endowed.
Taken together, these problems are vexing enough that I feel I must deduct a star. Therefore, I rate The Last City of America 3 out of 4 stars. This book is not an easy read by any extent of the imagination. The writing itself is often chaotic with frequently awkward phrasing, making the storyline difficult to follow. Containing 658 pages, it takes dedication to complete. I would recommend it for mature, experienced readers who like dystopian and post-apocalyptic themes. Be warned, the book indirectly addresses the darkness in humanity. This is present in every word and chapter. If you dislike complexity in what you read and enjoy more light, fluffy, straightforward plots, I encourage you to look elsewhere.
The Last City of America
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