Can it happen to us??
The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick
Blue Sky Press
March 1, 2012; 224 Pages
Reviewed: October 18, 2012
"Nobody around here reads anymore, Why bother, when you can just use a mindprobe needle and shoot all the images and excitement right into your brain? I've heard of books, but they were long before I was born. In the backtimes, before the Big Shake, when everything was supposedly perfect and everybody lived rich." These are the words of Spaz, a teenager living, rather surviving in the Urb. A desolate wasteland ruled by gangs who control everything. Where you live, what you eat, what you do - everything. Everything except Eden. Eden is as close to perfect as you can get in the post-bigshake world. But the only people who inhabit Eden are the Proovs - that's short for genetically improved human. Spaz earns his keep working for the leader of his section of the Urb. When he gets an order to rob a gummy (an old man) named Ryter, Spaz doesn't think twice. What he doesn't know is that his life - and life for everyone in the Urb is never going to be the same. A series of events finds Spaz, Ryter, an orphan called little face and a Proov named Lanaya on a mission to first see - then save Spaz's little sister Bean. As they search for a solution it becomes clear that a much larger task is at hand. What starts as a trip across the Urb becomes a journey that will change their world!
Okay, I'll admit this is way outside of my normal reading box. It's Young Adult Science Fiction. But after I commented to a patron how much I loved A Wrinkle in Time (which she and her son were reading) she asked if I'd ever read this book. Learning that I hadn't she encouraged me to give it a try. She seemed to think that as a librarian and book lover I should have this one under my belt. And of course she was right.
While the writing is a bit well, young, the story isn't it. The world that Philbrick has created is scary and real. It seems plausible that this could happen. In his characters we see the best of humanity under the worst conditions. This unlikely group faces adversity, clings to hope and questions authority. It's a story that makes you stop and think and at any level in any genre that is what makes a good book. And while I don't know that it'll make my all time favorite list I am glad I read it, and I would suggest that it be included as one of those books we all should read. Who knows when we might one day find ourselves experiencing our own big shake. Because just moments before I sat down to write this review, right here in central Massachusetts we had an earth quake that was strong enough to shake our house and everything in it - even waking my sleeping husband - now tell me that's not a little bit scary?!
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