We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.
The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.
They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.
But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.
In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.
“Even the longest journey is a circle, and history will always cycle back to the place where it began. From the missal: “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
Yancey is a genius. I’ll admit I was worried; I’d been seeing plenty negative reviews on Goodreads saying that books two and three were in no way necessary, that it was boring, that the ending was horrible. But I started reading and couldn’t put it down, stopping halfway only to sleep. And yet I was still worried, worried that the ending would fall flat. But as I inhaled the book, I realized that I absolutely loved it. It was shocking and exhilarating and upsetting and confusing as all heck, but I loved it and can’t stop thinking about it.
Once the initial shock of all that goes on had passed, it took me some time to sort out all that happened. Still, as I write this review, pieces are continuing to click into place. Yancey is not everyone’s cup of tea, it’s the reason his Monstrumologist quartet was never that popular – he writes literary horror, a fact that is somewhat masked in The 5th Wave due to all the sci fi elements, but at it’s heart this trilogy is horror doused in literary devices. I was surprised when The 5th Wave became so popular, hitting number one on the NYT bestseller list and spawning a movie, because, at the back of my head the whole time was the way The Monstrumologist series slowly descended into metaphor and I had a sneaking suspicion that this series would go the same way.
Thankfully, The Last Star IS filled with all the things I loved in the The Monstrumologist – it has deeply flawed characters, it probes deep into the question of human nature, and leaves tons of mysteries unsolved. The beginning of chapter 98 is the ultimate example, and quite possible my favourite thing Yancey has written – it sent chills down my spine. There is plot, plot that is set up mainly in the first book, allowing books two and and more three to slowly slide into the realm of metaphor and analogy. Same goes for characters. The plot in book two and especially book three reads on the surface like standard dystopian novel (albiet one that is thoughtful and gritty and realistic), yet the plot is paper thin for a reason; like an iceberg, the bulk of the story lies beneath the surface. Analogy upon metaphor, symbolism upon allusions.
“Life is a circle bound by fear. The fear of the predator. The fear of the prey. Without fear, life would not exist.”
Yet even on the surface layer, the story is intense and satisfying. I was unable to tear myself away, my heart literally pounding and spine tingling as I raced towards the conclusion. The characters, so full of hope and life when we first met them, are now beat down into shadows of their former selves; they are distrustful, empty, hardened, violent even. It is a beautiful, if unsettling, arc.
But the real substance is much more rewarding. Even the characters have symbolism attached to them. It is not always apparent while reading, or even immediately after. You have to step back and look beyond the immediate plot, to look a snippets of dialogue, themes and word choices before you can begin to piece together what the story’s really about. I’m still trying. Even as I sit here, writing this review, more things are clicking into place.
As Yancey tells you in the novel – “every time [you] expect a zig, there’s a zag”. Every time you think you know what’s going on, the floor is destroyed beneath your feet. There are answers, but they are not given easily. Yancey makes you work for them, supplying just enough puzzle pieces scattered throughout the story that when you eventually manage to assemble the few pieces you have, all you are able to make out is the image you are supposed to be completing; the barest of frames. The rest is for you to discover on your own.
For example, in an interview with The Guardian, Yancey made a very interesting comment that filled in some more gaps, and of course opened up some gaping new holes in the same instant.
“I’m very concerned about the growing tribalism across the globe, particularly in Western democracies, which I believe is a direct threat to the political stability of the planet. Trust and cooperation are the two indispensable qualities of human achievement and advancement. Without those two things, we’re doomed. I address this directly in The Last Star, how the ultimate evil of the invaders is manifested in destroying trust, by transforming any outsider into a potential enemy who must be eliminated. We lose our humanity when we fail to see anyone who does not share our skin colour, religious belief, political orientation or anything else that’s different or ‘other’ as something less than human, unworthy of dignity and respect. Hate and distrust are easy; love and understanding are damn hard. The information age was thought to herald a rebirth of cooperation and trust; instead, it has hardened us, enabled hate and xenophobia and intolerance to spread and be reinforced in the echo chambers of social media. The Western ideal of individual freedom has been perverted by demagogical appeals to our basest instincts and fears. Violence is, after all, the refuge of the weak-minded.”
The Last Star is about love, hate, faith, violence, the environment, humanity and perhaps most importantly hope. It paints an exceptionally bleak portrait of humanity, yet despite putting all the ugliness of human nature out on display, Yancey’s message is a hopeful one.
Love – Perhaps the most obvious theme of the novel, symbolized by Bear. Love between siblings and love between partners and love between friends. This is the unconquerable core of humanity.
Hate – How easily can someones mind be manipulated by those in positions of power? How easily can turn upon each other? This is a very scary reflection of the world we live in today populated by world leaders touting racism and where children are suicide bombers. The aliens are but a device to push society to its extremes, thus creating the best possible mirror for society.
Faith – Represented by the symbol of the cross, the characters all question their faith, as one would expect in an end of the world scenario. It is about faith in humanity, faith in love and faith in each other. In a lot of ways, the aliens can also be seen as a representation of God. Just think about it for a moment.
Violence – The Last Star is dark, grim and gorey, all the darkest elements of human nature put on display to show you what exactly we are truly capable of and how dark we really are.
The Environment – *Highlight for spoiler* Because of humanity – trust and cooperation, we destroyed the natural world – that is why the aliens came and that is why they want to knock civilization back to it’s knees. Its a paradox though – save society, destroy the environment, save the environment, destroy humanity – yet the ending is left open to invite other ways of interacting with the natural world. Also, most of the dialogue about Global Warming and climate change circles around the idea of what kind of world do we want to leave for our children. Well, Yancey quite literally dumps the problem in the laps of children.
Humanity – Cooperation and trust and love build us up in one direction, while fear and hate and selfishness destroy us from the other.
Hope – This is the question that Yancey ultimately answers: how can one hold onto hope even in the darkest of hours?
Plus, there’s loads more if you work for it. These are just the most obvious ones. How about sacrifice? And self acceptance? And what I found fascinating was that the opening chapter sets up the entirety of the novel. Masterfully contained within the space of ten pages is all the thematic material for the novel – so that’s the best place to start looking for more clues. It is definitely a series that re-reading would prove highly rewarding and I plan on doing it in a few years time.
The ending, controversial though it may be, is the best literal and metaphorical ending I’ve encountered. It manages to tie up the surface plot in a satisfying way while also driving home all the messages the Yancey set up throughout the trilogy. Yet, as you’d expect, right up to the final sentence, more hints are dropped and questions are both asked and answered. #longestreviewever
I loved this trilogy for all the though provoking questions it poses and the way you have to really work to find the answers. I am desperately waiting for whatever Yancey will write next.
“Love is forever. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be love. The world is beautiful. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the world.”