The Last One at the Party is a very timely novel set in late 2023 when the world, still recovering from the Covid pandemic, is hit with a new and devastating virus. It starts in Andover, Kansas and quickly starts to spread; crossing the globe in a matter of weeks and quickly earning the grim name 6DM which stands for ‘6 Days Maximum’ as that is the longest you will live once you contract it. It wipes out millions in just a few days and there is seemingly no way to avoid the terrifying and painful death it leads to.
But what if you didn’t get it? Everyone else does. Everybody around you dies, and there’s no-one left but you. You keep checking yourself for signs of the virus but you just don’t have them. Well that’s got to a positive in the midst of all that horror, right? There must be more of you out there who have survived this nightmare. It can’t just be you…can it?
This is the scenario that meets our protagonist. She’s fine. Absolutely fine. Apart from the fact that she’s watched every single person she knows die, there are dead people absolutely everywhere, and she is observing the world slowly starting to stop turning as a result. Wolves roam the streets, zoo animals are screaming as they die in their enclosures, pigeons become murderous, and dogs and cats are scrabbling at the windows and doors of the expensive houses their dead owners lie in desperate to get out. This is the grim, and I mean grim (the author doesn’t spare your feelings at all) reality of what she’s facing.
So it’s all the more unlikely that in the midst of this horror, there is humour.
Bethany Clift has managed to bring some real laugh out loud gallows humour to this book which works well in such stark contrast to what is going on around the character – it’s a bit Tarantino if you know what I mean – humour and horror combines to make something unusual and unexpected.
I had some issues with the character in the book – she got irritating to me because she kept repeating the same mistakes over and over, and despite the terrible environmental situation she found herself in, a great amount of the jeopardy she got into was really brought on by herself and her reckless and careless behaviour – from which she never seemed to learn. She left animals trapped inside houses with their dead owners when she could have tried to free them, and instead turned inward and locked herself up essentially having a huge pity party (albeit understandably), took loads of drugs and switched off. Then she decides to drive to the most rural and desolate frozen part of Scotland at the coldest part of the year with no heat or fuel. The timing and some of the research was a bit off too as in the length of time it took her to drive to Scotland from London, she probably could have driven to Madrid, even if she was driving slowly. To be fair though, finding out you’re the last one alive and watching everyone you love die, might just mess with your head enough to make you do some things that make you seem relatively insane.
This is another one of those marmite books I like to talk about. Suffice to say if you’re struggling with any aspect of the pandemic or don’t do grim, dystopian novels, distressed animals, and/or bodily fluids of any sort, then you might want to avoid this book. If you’re not put off by this description then I’d suggest you give it a go. I enjoyed it and full disclosure – actually got up early to read this with my book club The Pigeonhole before work – and if you know me then you’ll know this is quite the endorsement as I am NOT a morning person. If you’re still undecided, I wanted to include this quote as it actually made me laugh out loud – if you like the snarky sentiment of this take from our girl on a note left by a dying (rather horrible) person, then you’ll probably love the book!
“Imagine spending four days dying from 6DM and saving all your hate up for one final message only to have it ruined by bad grammar.”
Published February 4th 2021 by Hodder & Stoughton
About the Author: Bethany Clift
Bethany Clift is a graduate of the Northern Film School, the producer of low-budget British horror film Heretic, and the Director of her own production company, Saber Productions. Last One At The Party is her debut novel.