It seems odd to admit it, but I didn’t realize that Rodman Philbrick’s novel, The Last Book in the Universe, would be a dystopian book. Well, duh. It was the title that caught my eye, and also, I have enjoyed various Philbrick novels this year (our summer reading is The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg).
But I wondered what book would be the last book?
Set in a future after “the big shake” has decimated just about everything and everyone, society is splintered in a few protected areas, surrounding what is known as Eden, the home of genetically perfected society of people known as “proovs.” Yes, biblical and literary allegory looms large here. The main character is Spaz, and the plot revolves around his adventure is to get back home to his foster sister, who is dying of leukemia. Spaz, who is an epileptic, is joined by an old man, Ryter (say that one out loud), and a young boy who remains mostly nameless. Ryter has been writing a book, which is an unknown and forgotten art form, and he joins with Spaz to capture one last adventure (like Odysseus, he notes, to which Spaz asks, who?) before he dies.
Like Anthony Burgess has done in A Clockwork Orange, Philbrick has invented an entire lexicon for this world that has been almost destroyed, and it is survival of the fittest and quickest, and luckiest. And while Philbrick paints a terrible place, he laces his story with hope, and I won’t give away what we understand becomes the “last book” in the universe, except to say that the book has lots of action, thoughtful inquiry into modern day culture, and insights into the unspoken power of capturing our stories in words for the future.
Peace (in the last book),