2 out of 4 stars
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The Last City of America by Matthew Tysz is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel with a unique setting and a complex plot. Though it clearly fits within its genre, it pushes the limits, bringing in new ideas and stringing together some wild combinations and story elements. Though the story is genuinely engaging and will interest mature readers of the genre, it is heavy-handed and chaotic, effectively barring them from the full effect of this novel.
It is well into the 22nd century. The United States are in ruins, a virus known as Hephaestus has decimated the population, and the once great nation has been reduced to seven cities – three on the east coast, three on the west, and the legendary, terrorized city of Chicago. With the country torn between rulers known as “skylords”, politicians, mercenaries, and sociopaths, a power struggle ensues that will change the topography and politics of the country forever. Characters come and go as the story takes you from Manhattan to San Francisco and everything in between, and when the dust clears, the Seven Cities will be no more.
Looking at the basic outline of the story, the book is very compelling. It contains a lot of information and dives deeply into every subject, be it politics, science, or combat. Additionally, Tysz juggles numerous perspectives and a tangled web of politics, personal goals, and base desires without slipping up. While this is clearly no black-and-white storyline, exploring the darkest side of human nature, readers will find themselves identifying with certain characters and despising others, imbuing the narrative with the humanity the content seems to lack. Although there is much wanting, this kind of appeal gives it the potential to be a breathtaking and engaging story.
However, the book is extremely disorganized and chaotic. Though the viewpoints of these characters give an interesting outlook on some of the events of the story, it confuses readers deeply. The multitudes of characters and viewpoints assist the reader in understanding the complexity of the narrative, but the constant change in terrain makes it unsettling and distracting. It is hard to follow any cast of characters that changes so suddenly and often. Brand-new, unannounced characters pop up randomly for a chapter, then disappear forever. Readers are thrown into events without introduction, like stumbling into a firefight, and by the time they orient themselves, the picture has changed again. Additionally, the amount of profanity and sexual content hinders the story. Its only purpose appears to be for shock value, which is ineffective when used this much.
I give this book 2 out of 4 stars for a compelling plotline and appeal to readers of this genre. I personally did not enjoy this book, but some readers may. At a whopping 658 pages, it seems a little long for this deep of a narrative, and could be easily shortened or split into two or more books without disturbing the content. Though most of the book was fine in the editing department, there were more moments than I'd have liked where the sentence structure made me cringe. Audiences most likely to enjoy this book are mature, detail-oriented readers who strive to understand every possible perspective on a dire situation, and do not mind being constantly placed into the middle of new situations. I do not recommend this book for anyone who prefers a simple or unencumbered plot – if you prefer the usual good-versus-evil storyline, this book is not for you.
The Last City of America
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