The Last Wild by Piers Torday gives us a post-apocalyptic world where the red-eye virus has killed nearly all the animals. Save for a few holdouts, humanity has been pushed into cities and subsists on a synthetic formula.
It’s a bleak setup for a children’s novel. But it gets worse.
Kester Jaynes is trapped in a home for troubled children because he stopped talking six years ago. There’s your rejected outcast hero.
But then some of the remaining animals start talking to him, including a flock of pigeons and a fighting cockroach. They break him out and the adventure begins, a journey to cure the virus and save the last remaining animals.
It’s very British.
Kind of a post-apocalyptic Narnian adventure. I give it kudos for imagination (and a killer cover). The middle-grade post-apocalyptic story is quite a challenge.
But I felt like the pacing was off. Quest stories have a difficult task: the author needs to keep the adventure moving but maintain the right balance of hope and despair. We have to keep the goal in mind and feel like we’re getting there, but there also needs to be the drama of the adventure—all the challenges that keep our hero from his goal and jeopardize the entire mission.
There has to be a rising and falling action, moments of intense danger when it’s all on the line, but then moments of rest and recovery when our heroes can gather their wits and prepare for the next challenge. I felt like The Last Wild never had any rest. It was all rise. That might work in a mix CD, but not in an adventure story.
Plus, it’s the first in a series, so we don’t get complete closure on everything.