Book – The Last Day
Author – Andrew Hunter Murray
Year – 2020
Pages – 410
Genre – Dystopian Thriller
Bought for me by Alex
(Book 3 of 2022)
I am a huge fan of podcasts – there are quite genuinely a couple of thousand sitting on my phone waiting to be heard – and one of the first that I really got into was the quite brilliant No Such Thing As A Fish – a comedy/trivia podcast hosted by the QI Elves. Andrew Hunter Murray is one of said Elves, and also hosts the Private Eye podcast Page 94, so when I found out that he had a novel coming out, I knew that it was something worth a look.
Set in the near future, the Earth has experienced The Stop – the slow grinding to a halt of the rotation of our planet. The same side now faces the sun at all times, leaving a band of scorched earth, some areas of perpetual dawn and dusk, and half a planet frozen over.
Into this new world have risen new superpowers, and Britain is one of them. In a fortunate position once the world stopped turning, the rise of a clever dictator separated them from the rest of the world, and Europe became their new farmland. But it is not peaceful, and many still go hungry.
Our heroine is Ellen Hopper, who receives a message from a former university tutor – a previously important government figure – with a secret that could change everything. What follows is a thrilling race for secrets in this new world.
And what a world it is. The trick to getting this kind of thing right is to make sure that you have fully realised the setting that it all takes place in, and Murray does that superbly. Whilst I cannot attest to the scientific credibility of much of the book, he writes it all in such a way that it feels perfectly correct. And not just the science, but also the political and social implications of such a colossal change. From the pseudo-religious Ranters who line the streets to preach about the end of days, to the Woodsmen who have entreated to the abandoned rural towns that lie around London, it all feels real and lived in.
None of this matters if you cannot match it with good plot and character however, and Murray rises to the task here as well. The plot rattles along speedily, but with enough time for you to breathe this new world in. It had that “one more chapter” feel that a good thriller should have. There are enough broad strokes with the characters to not identify it as the book’s strongest element, but even then they do exactly what they need to.
I am considering switching to a one decimal place system for the blog moving forwards, as I am very generous with my scores. If that were to happen then I think we would be looking at a 9.5, but in the meantime it can have the benefit of the doubt and have my fortieth full marks.